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Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Attorney Before Hiring

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Time is at a premium when you’re interviewing a criminal defense attorney. There’s not a minute to lose. Before you decide on a criminal defense lawyer, to choose wisely, you need answers to questions concerning your care and legal circumstances. When possible, check prospective defense counselors’ reputations with law enforcement and other attorneys in your area. Determine the attorney’s experience in defending other clients charged with the same crime. After identifying criminal defense attorneys in your area, call to arrange face-to-face meetings with them.


Understand that many of the best criminal defense attorneys are busy. You may be asked to meet with one of his or her team. That’s okay. Don’t disqualify the attorney because he or she is attending to client business. You want a focused criminal defense attorney. Whether you are dealing with misdemeanor charges or a felony, if you’re searching for an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston, take enough time to compare attorneys. Your freedom, future employment, and personal relationships may be affected by a conviction.

Criminal Defense Attorney Interviews

Prepare for the meeting. You may be asked to fill out an intake questionnaire before meeting with the attorney. Send the documents by fax or email or bring hard copies the defense lawyer needs to be productive with you, such as:

  • Copy of police report
  • Court documents regarding charges and the date of your next court appearance
  • Paperwork police provided if your property was searched
  • Bail paperwork
  • Names of witnesses, additional defendants, and victims (to verify that the attorney or his or her office hasn’t agreed to represent any of the parties to prevent conflict of interest)

Bring questions to ask the defense attorney, along with paper and a pen to make notes. If you want to bring someone else to the meeting, ask the attorney’s administrative staff if this is okay.

Criminal Defense Attorney Experience

One of the most important reasons to meet with a criminal defense attorney is to determine his or her experience. You need to know if the attorney has previously defended others against charges similar to your own. For instance, if you’re charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, you want an attorney with driving under the influence of drugs experience. Some questions to elicit information about the attorney’s experience include:

  • When did you receive your Juris Doctor degree? From which law school did you graduate?
  • How many years have you practiced criminal law?
  • Do most of your clients go to trial?
  • Do you regularly negotiate plea agreements? What’s your relationship with the local prosecutor’s office?
  • What percentage of the practice is engaged in representing defendants with similar charges?
  • Are you a member of any legal professional organizations and bar associations? Which ones?
  • Are you a certified criminal law specialist?

Primary Defense Counsel

Many larger law firms assign the client to a team. Ask the following questions to learn whether your attorney is the individual who will represent you:

  • Will other attorneys and paralegals work on my case? Will you serve as my primary defense attorney? If the attorney with whom you’re meeting isn’t available to present you, it’s important to request a meeting with the person(s) responsible for the task.
  • Did you review the discovery evidence? What should I do?
  • When I have questions, should I contact you or someone else in the office? Who is my contact in the office? What’s your contact preference? In what time frame do you respond to questions?
  • What are your fees? How are your fees structured?

Use these questions as a starting point to determine the defense attorney’s background, experience, and accessibility. You need a criminal attorney to help guide you through the maze of what’s to come, such as arraignment, motions filing/hearing, and trial.

You may want an aggressive defense lawyer whose name is on the door of the law office. If that’s your preference, you might not warm to the larger firm’s team approach.

If you provided the attorney with copies of discovery prior to the meeting, he or she should have an idea of your legal options. Ask the defense counselor if a trial, guilty plea, or a plea agreement is recommended in your case. Discuss which aspects of the case might work in your favor. Ask the attorney what potential problem he or she foresees with the case. Get answers to your questions as soon as possible if you face a criminal charge in greater Houston, Texas.

Legal Fees and Costs

It’s important to know how your lawyer will charge for his or her time. Most criminal defense lawyers charge an hourly fee or request a flat fee. Take the time to understand the competitive market for criminal defense attorneys but know that established, experienced lawyers charge more than others. It’s up to you to determine the best fit for you and your case.

Many clients believe it’s worth the cost to avoid conviction if possible. Obviously, criminal defense attorneys can’t promise success in your case. A criminal defense lawyer won’t work on performance.

To learn more about the lawyer’s costs and fees, ask:

  • Do you charge clients an hourly rate or will I pay a flat fee for services?
  • If you charge by the hour, must I pay a retainer to get started?
  • When do I receive retainer statements?
  • What additional expenses do I pay in addition to your hourly fee, retainer, or flat fee? Will you provide me with an estimate of these costs?

Understand that a legal defense lawyer is expensive. The best criminal defense lawyer might not charge the highest hourly rate. You may need to ask family and friends to help pay legal fees if you can’t raise the retainer or flat fee rate alone. If you must borrow money to pay legal fees and you have bad credit, ask a family member or friend with good credit to co-sign. Raising your legal defense is an emergency.

Selecting a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you live in a city like Houston, it may be challenging to meet with each criminal defense lawyer on your radar. After meeting with several criminal defense attorneys, choose one.

Many people feel it’s difficult to select a criminal defense lawyer. If it’s challenging to choose between two criminal defense counselors, ask yourself:

  • Which lawyer is the most experienced?
  • Which defense lawyer offered the most helpful advice?
  • Whose legal fee structure seemed more reasonable?
  • Which attorney inspired the greater confidence in him or her?

Use your logical and comparative skills to identify the best criminal defense lawyer for your needs. Don’t discard how the defense attorney makes you feel. You will work closely with him or her for the duration of your case.

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