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What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney

You were charged with a crime and you need a defense attorney. How do you know who to choose and whether that person will be any good?

Let's take it one step at a time and start with consultation. An initial meeting can reveal a lot.

False and Coerced Confession FAQ

What makes a person claim responsibility for something they did not do and could it happen to you? It seems crazy to admit to a crime you didn't commit, yet people do it all the time.

They are not crazy necessarily, although they may feel that way after extensive interrogation. Defendants are coerced into confessing by authorities who are too eager to close cases at any cost. Let's take a look at confessions, and some frequently asked questions about this coercion by authorities.

Oregon Militia Members Face Federal Criminal Conspiracy Charge

Freedom fighters often pay for their struggles with prison time, and this is certainly true for the crew that occupied the Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon last month in a standoff against the federal government. The Oregon militia members were protesting the imprisonment of two men prosecuted for fires on national parklands. Now they too face prosecution.

The felony charge they face is conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats. This could result in fines and six years in prison, and according to an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, the government was very careful in choosing the charge.

If you've been paroled out of jail, or are on probation trying to avoid jail, the last thing you probably want to see is law enforcement at your front door. Often officers want to search your home, and they don't always have a warrant.

But do they need one? Or can law enforcement just search your home if you're on parole or probation?

Obviously, possessing illegal drugs anywhere can get you into trouble. But all states and even the federal government have increased penalties for possession in so-called drug-free zones like schools.

So when do these laws apply, what do they look like, and what are the possible penalties for bringing drugs to school?

A Process Primer Ahead of 'Shrimp Boy' Appeal

Last week Raymond Chow, the San Francisco Chinatown mobster-turned-community-activist known as Shrimp Boy, was found guilty of 162 criminal counts by a jury in a federal court. He immediately announced that he'll appeal the verdict. What does that mean exactly?

Appeals can be confusing and are often misunderstood, even by defendants. So before Shrimp Boy files his brief, let's look at the appellate process, what it can and cannot do, and what an appeals court reviews.

'Making a Murderer' Makes Lawyer Hero ... Just in Time

Lawyer jokes abound and attorneys are widely mocked and reviled. But the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer has given many Americans a new lawyer to love. And he came just in time, according to The New Republic.

One of the defense attorneys featured in the documentary, Dean Strang, has been making headlines and finding fans based on his portrayal in the series, which covers the murder trial of Steven Avery in 2007, who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit only to be accused of murder while his exoneration proceedings were happening. Along with defense lawyers Jerome Buting, Dean Strang has been called a hero for standing by Avery, and their timing could not be better.

Is It a Crime to Point a Gun at Someone?

It is a crime to threaten someone with physical harm if you seem to have the means and intent to cause the threatened harm. That crime is called assault.

Assault is generally defined as a threat that puts someone in fear of imminent harm, although state statutes do vary and assault is a particularly confusing crime because the term is sometimes used to refer to the related crime of battery as well. Pointing a gun at a person is likely to threaten their sense of safety and can certainly give the impression of intent to harm, so people are charged with assault for it.

Ethan Couch remains in custody in an immigration detention center in Mexico City, after almost a month on the run from law enforcement. The so-called "affluenza" teen and his mom were apprehended in Puerto Vallarta last week, apparently hiding out following a possible probation violation.

Couch was 16 when he struck and killed four pedestrians while driving drunk in Ft. Worth, Texas in 2013. He managed to get just probation and rehab after a defense expert testified Couch suffered from "affluenza," meaning he had been too coddled to be held responsible for his crime.

So why is he still in Mexico, and not back in the United States? And could his attempted escape to Mexico work?

How Much Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Cost?

Criminal defense lawyers vary widely in quality and price. You can pay a lot for an attorney's fancy office but that is no indication of skill in court. Or -- if you are indigent -- you could end up with a truly top notch attorney with lots of experience, appointed by the state, whose fees you do not pay.

Apart from how much a lawyer charges, there are many other factors that influence what you'll pay for a criminal defense attorney. Let's take a look at them here, so you can know what to expect when you hire a lawyer.