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In 2018, there were over 67,000 criminal cases filed.
If you find yourself or a loved one charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), you’ll need to find a criminal defense lawyer. There are over 1.3 million attorneys in the United States to choose from.
Given the astronomical number of practicing attorneys, finding a criminal advocate for your DWI that fits your unique needs is difficult. There are many factors you should consider while searching for a criminal defense lawyer. It’s essential to do all your research and ask lots of questions.
How do you know who will be a good fit for you and your case? How do you know who to trust?
Answering these questions isn’t easy. In this in-depth guide, we’ll answer all your pressing questions about criminal defense attorneys and help guide you on this challenging journey.
What Is a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
A criminal defense attorney is hired by defendants accused of criminal misconduct. Defendants are individuals or a group of people.
An attorney helps to protect the legal rights of their clients. Lawyers research, prepare, and argue a case on behalf of their defendant and defend them against the criminal charges.
There are several reasons why it’s crucial to find a criminal defense lawyer. One is because criminal cases can result in severe consequences.
The legal process is overwhelming and complicated. The right attorney will help to reduce some of the stress of a criminal case.
How to Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer
There are several resources at your disposal to assist in finding an attorney. You should do as much research as possible and gather all the information you can find about each lawyer you’re considering.
Don’t try to go to court by yourself for your DWI without a criminal defense lawyer. Criminal cases like DWI are complicated.
A person without a legal background won’t know how to navigate the complexities of a criminal court. A lawyer can help you get a more favorable deal that leads to a drop in the charges or reducing the possible punishment. For example, a skilled attorney can get your case dismissed if they’re able to find errors the police made while obtaining evidence against you.
Here are some tips on how to find a criminal lawyer:
1. Find a Lawyer With Experience and Passion
You don’t want a lawyer new to the job and little experience in court. Neither do you want an attorney who is lackluster and not invested in you or the case.
Find a lawyer who feels motivated and high-energy when talking about your case. You want someone who will listen to you and fight with every fiber of their being to win the case.
Experience is every bit as important as passion. Experience with tax law doesn’t translate to experience with a DWI case.
You’ll also want your attorney to have some experience with taking a case to court. If your lawyer is new to arguing a case to a jury or filing motions to a judge, your case may not end with good results.
2. Make Sure There Is a Strong Legal Team
A criminal case is too much for a single person to handle. There’s a ton of research and interviewing and paperwork involved.
A reliable attorney will have a team of administrative staff and paralegals to help with the caseload. This team doesn’t have to be massive. Depending on your DWI case, a single paralegal is enough to provide the assistance a lawyer needs.
Another aspect of this to consider is the effect it’ll have on the fees you pay. A larger team means the attorney will spend fewer hours on your case. Fewer hours translates to a smaller bill from your lawyer.
3. Get References From Past Clients
When in doubt, ask around with friends, family, or search online for testimonials about the lawyer. This will give you an idea for the attorney’s personality and their track record of wins and losses in court.
If you see a couple of bad reviews, don’t mark the lawyer off right away. You can’t please everyone, so it’s normal to see a few disgruntled clients in their past.
More than a handful of negative testimonials should give you pause. Read the testimonials in-depth and discover if there’s any common denominator between them all. If they all complain of an attorney who has a bad attitude or doesn’t communicate with the client, these are red flags to stay away.
4. Check Your State’s Bar Association
It’s required by law for an attorney to be a member of the state bar to practice law in that specific state. You’ll want to check with a state bar association because they can often give you information on hiring a lawyer.
What Questions Should You Ask Your Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Your case is important. You want to make sure the lawyer you hire will treat it as if they themselves were on trial.
While you’re searching for an attorney, there are several questions you should ask them to get a feel for who they are and how they work.
You’ll want to start by finding out if the lawyer offers consultations. If they do, you will use this consultation to get a feel for the lawyer and their experience, and whether you would feel comfortable working with them. The lawyer will use the consultation to judge the legitimacy of your defense.
Remember, a consultation is for you to decide if you want to hire this particular lawyer. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.
Feel free to ask whether the lawyer has ever handled cases similar to yours and how many. Find out if the attorney won or lost those cases.
Also, find out what mode of communication they prefer. Will you be expected to call them or send e-mails? You should also discover whether you’ll be able to reach them after business hours.
Perhaps the most critical question you should ask, though save it for last, is how you’ll be charged for their services. On average, lawyers charge a fee in three different ways:
- By the hour.
- One-time, flat fee.
Once you know their fee structure, there are further questions you can ask related to that.
For example, if the attorney is by the hour, then you’ll want to know the hourly rate, the minimum billing increments, whether they’ll charge you for phone calls and e-mails, and whether they can estimate how many hours the case may result in.
Be Honest and Truthful
Once you’ve found your attorney, you’ll sign an engagement letter. This is the contract between you and your lawyer.
After you’ve signed the contract, all of your information is confidential and legally protected. Be 100% transparent with your attorney. Your attorney needs honesty from you if they’re to win the case.
Honesty with your attorney is of paramount importance. If the prosecuting lawyer blindsides your attorney with facts they weren’t aware of, it can cost you and your attorney the case.
Even if you aren’t sure whether a particular detail is important or not, don’t hold back. Now is the time to lay everything out. This gives your attorney a chance to prepare for every angle of attack from the prosecution.
What Will Happen at Your Criminal Case?
Every state has its own rules for criminal cases. One state might exact a harsher punishment for a specific crime while another state might opt for a lighter sentence.
When you attend court with your criminal defense lawyer, and you’ve entered a not guilty plea, you may attend a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is a sort of like a mini-trial.
It’s during your preliminary hearing that your lawyer might submit pre-trial motions. In turn, the prosecutor may respond to the motion or file their own. A motion is a request to the judge to decide on a certain issue before the official trial.
This step can be pivotal in the success or failure of a trial sometimes. A motion impacts evidence and testimony.
The next time you appear in court, it’ll be for your official trial. During the trial, both sides will go over the facts of the case, submit evidence, or call on witnesses. Then the jury will decide the verdict.
Ideally, if you’ve chosen a great attorney, your sentencing will either come out as a “not guilty.” If it turns out guilty, a skilled attorney will have done their job to reduce your sentencing to something lighter.
Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Right for You
No one should face criminal charges alone. You need an experienced attorney on your side when it comes to defending you in court.
Don’t settle for just any attorney. Take your time and find a lawyer that is the best match for you and your case.
If you follow this guide on how to find a criminal defense lawyer right for you, you should find an attorney that suits your needs and will hopefully win your case.
If you live in the Houston, Texas area, consider using the services of Scott M. Brown & Associates. We have experienced attorneys, professional staff, and years of experience.
Contact us today for a consultation with a lawyer.