When it comes to searching for a criminal attorney, unfortunately, there aren't enough people out there that know what to look for. In situations where your money, reputation, and even freedom are at stake, hiring the wrong lawyer could be a disaster. To avoid that, you need to know what qualities to look for when you're searching for a criminal attorney. As a criminal attorney myself, I have created four different questions that will help you determine whether or not your attorney-in-question will perform will for you.
Do They Listen Well?
When searching for an attorney, you want to find one that is a good listener. If the attorney seems distracted while you are talking with them, is yawning, looking around the room, fidgeting with something, or otherwise just not listening to you, don't give them your time or your money. If they aren't listening to your case, how will they be able to present it before a court of law when your livelihood may be on the line? Look for a lawyer that maintains good eye-contact, looks up your case online, acknowledges your statements with a nod or a short verbal response, and that makes you feel like you are being listened to. In other words you want to go with an attorney you feel comfortable with. The lawyer you hire will be a part of your life for the next several weeks to several years. Don't make a stressful situation worse by hiring someone you don't get along with!
Do They Present Themselves Well?
The old saying is true, first impressions matter! An attorney's job is to present themselves, as well as yourself, in front of a judge and a jury of your peers. Legally, you are not able to be discriminated against based on how you present yourself--but law and order do not govern the subconscious mind. The jury may be influenced in ways that they aren't aware of if your attorney uses crude language, dresses like a slob, has messy hair, or just generally doesn't present him or herself well (and by extension, you too). Try to find a criminal defense attorney that speaks confidently, has good posture, dresses well, and looks, overall, to be a professional.
Do They Have Experience With Your Particular Case Area?
Ask yourself this question: if you wanted to build a house and had the choice between an architect that builds water parks, an architect that builds corporate offices, and an architect that builds houses, which architect would you choose? Clearly, you would choose the architect that's built houses before! This analogy translates over into the field of law as well. You wouldn't hire an attorney that does water rights cases if you are in need of a criminal attorney. Take it a step further and try to find somebody that has handled your specific case before. There's nothing like experience to back up an attorney. For example, if you have been arrested for a DUI in St. Petersburg ask your lawyer how many similar cases has he/she handled? Is the attorney familiar with criminal procedure in the county you were arrested? Does he/she regularly attend continuing legal education classes on that subject to stay in front of new defenses or laws? Does your criminal defense lawyer have the courtroom experience you need to fight your case? These are just a few of the many questions you will need to ask to find the right lawyer for your particular charge.
Do They Have a Good Track Record?
Keeping with the architect analogy, you wouldn't want to hire an architect who's been building houses that are ugly, overpriced, or otherwise poorly constructed. In the same way, you wouldn't want an attorney that's consistently lost cases for previous clients. Thus, just like it's a good idea to look into an architect's portfolio to make sure that they perform with quality, you'll want to check into the attorney's case history to be sure that they have a history of favorable outcomes. While no lawyer wins every case, you want to feel confident that your criminal defense attorney has motion and jury trial experience.
In conclusion, while there may be more questions you want to ask your potential attorney, this is a good starting guide. Talk to multiple, local lawyers in your area that have experience in what you have been charged with. Don't go with the cheapest attorney just to save money, rather only go with him/her if you feel comfortable with them and feel confident that they can help. Likewise, don't automatically assume that the most expensive lawyer is the best. Finally, if any attorney guarantees you a result or promises you anything, run, don't walk from their office!
About the Author: Vincent Imhoff is a writer and Los Angeles criminal lawyer who acts as a managing partner at Imhoff & Associates, P.C. He earned his law degree at Chicago-Kent College and his undergraduate degree at Lewis University. When he isn't writing or practicing, Vincent finds time to ski on his favorite slopes and get some jogging in.