If you have been accused of a crime and are looking for a criminal defense lawyer, you should consult with a few attorneys. That may sound costly and time consuming but it need not be -- many lawyers consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case.
Are you familiar with the charge? There are many different crimes and you may find an attorney you like who has not defended the specific charge you are facing. That is fine. If your lawyer knows how to defend and handle a criminal case, you do not need them to be an expert in a particular offense. Asking this question helps you to get a sense of their experience generally and gets the lawyer talking. Listen carefully to how they sound because this will be your mouthpiece in court.
What is the process? A lawyer should be able to lay out a plan for you, informing you of what to expect, more or less. Things will no doubt change along the way, but ask your attorney what they do generally once they have signed up a client. Someone who cannot describe this process to you may be insufficiently experienced to represent you.
What are my options? A criminal defense attorney should be familiar with plea bargaining, motion practice, and trials. A lawyer should be able to handle each case based on its details, and may hear something in your story that raises an issue. Although more research will need to be done, a good lawyer will start by presenting potential options, later narrowing or expanding this based on the specifics of your case revealed in discovery and through research.
What is your fee? There are many different types of fee arrangements. Many criminal defense attorneys will charge a set fee for a misdemeanor and a higher fee for felonies, going up with the severity of the crime. The priciest lawyers are not the best, nor should you just go by cheapest. Let the fee be just one aspect of your hiring decision.
How often can I expect to hear from you? Get a sense of when your lawyer will check in and what they consider reasonable communication. A good lawyer will keep you informed of any developments in your case and even occasionally check in if nothing is happening just to reassure you.
Cannot Be Answered
You'll be tempted to ask how strong your case is or whether the lawyer thinks they could win a trial. Don't do it. Lawyers are ethically barred from predicting outcomes. Too many factors go into any case to count on predictions in a consultation. The point of meeting is to see who you can work with.
Consult With Counsel
If you have been accused of a crime, don't delay. Set up appointments to talk to a lawyer or two today. Get guidance and start working on your defense.