Your criminal defense lawyer can protect you from years of incarceration and thousands of dollars in fines. Skilled attorneys will find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and can get a fair outcome in even the most difficult situations.
You should meet with a few criminal defense attorneys before you make a final decision about who to hire. Here are some steps you should take to prepare for a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.
Understand Your Charges
Many criminal defense lawyers offer a free consultation. But a “free consultation” does not necessarily mean an “unlimited consultation.” Making good use of your time will help you cover all the issues in your case.
Before you meet with a lawyer, make sure that you understand your charges. The less time the lawyer has to spend explaining your charges to you, the more time you have to discuss your legal strategy.
Review all of the paperwork you receive from the police, jail, and court. These documents will list your charges and the date of your next court appearance.
The prosecution must prove a set of elements for a conviction on each of these charges. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will know the elements a prosecutor must prove for each of the offenses.
By reading your paperwork before the consultation, you can jump to the discussion about the ways that you can challenge the prosecution’s case rather than spending time figuring out your charges.
Write Down Your Questions
Getting arrested can scramble your thinking. As you prepare for your consultation, you should write down any questions that you may have. This will ensure you cover all of the issues that are important to you.
For example, if your spouse falsely accused you of domestic violence, you should write down all of the questions you have about overcoming the charges. You should also write down all of your questions surrounding the accusation, like whether you can visit your kids and how to remove belongings from your home.
Think About Your Goals
A criminal defense lawyer cannot make your charges disappear. But a lawyer can play a critical role in obtaining an outcome with the least impact on your life. To do this, a lawyer must know your goals for the case.
A criminal conviction can have many consequences that could affect your life, including:
In Kentucky, only minor violations like traffic infractions are free from any risk of incarceration.
Otherwise, a judge can impose a term of incarceration of:
- Up to 90 days for Class B misdemeanors
- Between 90 days and 12 months for Class A misdemeanors
- 1 to 5 years for a Class D felony
- 5 to 10 years for a Class C felony
- 10 to 20 years for a Class B felony
- 20 to 50 years, or life, for a Class A felony
Incarceration will deprive you of more than your freedom. Even a few days in jail could get you fired from your job and hurt your reputation.
After a conviction, a judge can impose thousands of dollars in fines. For some offenses, judges can also order you to pay restitution to the victim. These economic penalties can cripple your finances.
Sex offenses can put you on Kentucky’s sex offender registry. Being on the registry can prevent you from getting a job, renting a home, or living in certain places.
A conviction will saddle you with a criminal record. This can derail many of your life goals, including:
- Getting a job
- Going to school
- Enlisting in the military
- Receiving a loan or mortgage
- Renting property
- Obtaining professional licenses
If your lawyer understands your goals, they can work to get an outcome that allows you to keep them.
For example, suppose that you want to enlist in the U.S. military. If prosecutors convict you of felony theft, the military can refuse your enlistment.
This means that your lawyer will need to:
- Persuade a jury to acquit you
- Negotiate a plea deal for a misdemeanor
- Get you admitted to a pre-trial diversion program, or
- Find a way to get your charges dismissed
If the lawyer cannot accomplish any of these, your dream of enlistment will end.
Calculate How Much You Can Afford to Pay
The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a lawyer in all criminal cases. But states only need to pay lawyers for indigent defendants. In Kentucky, this means that you only receive a public defender if you cannot afford a private lawyer.
Everyone else that wants a criminal defense lawyer must pay. Lawyers charge different rates to defend a case. Before you consult a lawyer, put some thought into what you can afford to pay.
Avoiding a conviction can save your job, home, car, and family. If you need to raid your savings or borrow money from a relative to pay a lawyer, you will probably find the expense worthwhile. Your lawyer will be your last line of defense to a conviction.
Meeting the Lawyer
Remember that complete honesty will help your legal team build your defense. Attorney-client confidentiality will cover anything that you say to the lawyer while you’re seeking legal advice. Confidentiality encourages you to have an open and frank discussion with the lawyers you consult.
During your meeting, you should also discuss the next steps for your case and ask any questions that may be relevant to your case or your charges.
To schedule a consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, contact Suhre & Associates, LLC. We can put decades of experience to work to fight your criminal charges.