Most criminal defense lawyers offer a free consultation to new clients. This consultation allows you to get some preliminary feedback on your case and some ideas for your criminal defense. It also gives you the chance to interview lawyers and decide whether to hire them.
But many clients have not hired a lawyer before. They do not know the questions to ask or even the qualifications to seek.
With this in mind, here are some questions to ask a criminal defense lawyer during a free consultation.
What to Expect During a Free Consultation with a Criminal Defense Attorney
When you call to schedule your free consultation, the receptionist will tell you how long your consultation will take. Remember that you will not have an unlimited amount of time with the lawyer. Make a list of the topics you want to cover so the lawyer can answer all of the questions you have.
If the police have not yet arrested you because the investigation remains open, you should talk to a lawyer before talking to the police. If the police arrested you and prosecutors have filed charges, you should talk to a lawyer at or before your first court appearance.
You should bring any documents you received from the police, court, or jail. Although the lawyer can probably look up your case, you will save the lawyer time by bringing your documents with you.
The lawyer will probably ask you to tell your story. You should tell your story honestly and openly. Your lawyer needs all of the details — no matter how embarrassing you might think they are — to provide effective legal representation.
Remember that attorney-client confidentiality will cover anything you tell the lawyer that relates to your case. This means that the lawyer will not reveal anything you disclose while seeking legal representation.
Once the lawyer understands your story and your charges, the lawyer will outline your legal options. These options will likely include:
- Moving to dismiss the charges or talking prosecutors out of filing charges
- Raising constitutional issues, like an illegal search, to limit the evidence against you
- Asserting legal defenses and presenting exculpatory evidence to overcome the charges
- Pleading to lesser charges
You can then have an open-ended discussion about the lawyer and the representation so you can decide whether to hire the lawyer or not.
Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer During the Free Consultation
Some issues you should raise during your free consultation include questions about the representation, the lawyer’s experience, and the lawyer’s assessment of your case. For example, you can ask:
How Much Do You Charge?
This is a critical question. Having a discussion about fees during the free consultation can reduce the risk of fee disputes later on.
Most criminal defense lawyers charge an hourly fee or a flat fee. Lawyers cannot charge a contingent fee for criminal defense work.
Lawyers usually charge flat fees for work when they can estimate the total amount of work needed. For example, lawyers who handle traffic tickets usually charge a flat fee to negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduction in the fine.
Lawyers usually charge an hourly fee for less predictable work. Thus, a lawyer might charge an hourly fee for a federal wire fraud case. Federal crimes often require a lot of work and time because they involve so much evidence.
How Will I Receive Case Updates?
Your lawyer must keep you reasonably informed about your case and respond to reasonable requests for information. But criminal defense lawyers can get busy. You should discuss how you will receive updates about your case and whether you can talk to anyone else in the law firm about your case. Oftentimes, you can speak to a paralegal or legal assistant for updates.
What Experience Do You Have in Cases Like Mine?
Not all criminal defense lawyers have the same experience. While almost all criminal defense attorneys have defended clients accused of drug crimes and theft crimes, you might have difficulty finding a lawyer who has handled less common charges. You should ask the lawyer about their prior experiences with similar cases.
For example, if you have been charged with possession of child pornography, ask the lawyer about similar sex crime cases.
More importantly, ask the lawyer about what worked and did not work in those other cases. This will tell you whether the lawyer has a base of knowledge and experience that can help you with your charges.
What Should I Expect from My Charges?
Lawyers won’t be able to predict what will happen with your case. Most charges involve nuances that can have a ripple effect throughout the case.
But an experienced lawyer can tell you:
- The high and low sentences for your charges
- Possible alternate charges you might get in a plea deal
- The chances of getting the charges dismissed
- The odds of getting an acquittal
This information can give you a range of outcomes so you can choose a path forward for your case.
What Can I Do to Help My Case?
Some people think that once prosecutors have filed charges, they cannot do anything to make the case better or worse. This is simply not true.
Your lawyer may have some suggestions for improving your circumstances with prosecutors, jurors, and the judge, including:
- Attending drug or alcohol rehab
- Getting sex offender treatment
- Holding a job
- Avoiding new charges
- Following any protective orders
- Making all of your court appearances
The lawyer may have other suggestions based on the nature of your charges.
Similarly, the lawyer might have warnings about things to avoid while you await trial. These guidelines include:
- Avoiding contact with the alleged victim
- Avoiding contact with witnesses
- Avoiding discussions about your case with anyone
- Avoiding other arrests or new charges
- Not fleeing the jurisdiction
These and other actions could lead to additional charges against you.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
You should not feel pressured to hire a lawyer at the end of the free consultation. If you get convicted, you could lose your freedom and seriously damage your future. Hiring a lawyer might be the most important decision you make in your case. You should consider your options carefully to give yourself the best chance at a fair outcome.A free consultation can give you a wealth of information that helps you pick a lawyer and a legal strategy for your case. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, contact the experienced team at Suhre & Associates, LLC.