If you've found yourself in a bit of a criminal pickle, you may want to find the best attorney possible. But good ones could charge high fees, and you may want to know a few things about criminal defense and payment plans before dialing for attorneys.
How Are Criminal Defense Fees Calculated?
Criminal defense attorneys only receive payment for their services through their clients. Unlike in a civil case, there's no damages to take a percentage of, and no attorney fees to recover. It all comes down to the defendant paying fees. Costs will depend on such things as the criminal charges, your defense strategy, and the attorney's expertise, reputation, track record, and location.
Criminal defense attorneys will charge you using one of three ways: a flat fee, an hourly fee, or a hybrid of the two with an initial fee followed by hourly fees. You should receive a good estimate of the fees you will be facing after a consultation, which is often free. Most understand your predicament and are willing to put together a payment plan that sets you up to win.
Working Out a Payment Plan
Criminal defense attorneys will often ask for a retainer upfront, which is a big lump sum of money you hand over in the beginning, and payment is taken from it every time the attorney performs work. It may be hard to get a payment plan for the retainer, because the fee structure of a retainer is diametrically opposed to payment plans. When the attorney requests a flat fee, most criminal defense attorneys will ask for a percentage of the full fee upfront, and then monthly payments thereafter, which, by its nature, creates a monthly payment plan.
As for hourly, the bill will usually be due within a certain amount of time of the hours being performed. If you need an extension, the sooner you ask for one, the more likely you are to get it. Setting up a payment plan will still require you to pay some money up front, but will spread the overall bill out over time. You should most definitely consult with a variety of criminal defense lawyers in your area until you find one that is a great balance between what you can afford and who you feel confident representing you.
Public Defenders Can Be An Option
Always keep in mind that if you can't afford a criminal defense attorney, you have the constitutional right to have one appointed for you in the form of a public defender, paid by the government. Don't be fooled by their price. Many public defenders are outstanding at their trade, and choose to be in their position out of the kindness, and fairness, of their heart.
If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, you will need representation. If you don't qualify for a public defender, contact as many qualified criminal defense attorneys as you can. Don't be fooled by prices -- some are worth it, and some aren't. And, like cars, there are good deals to be found. Be honest and upfront about what you can afford, and how you plan to pay.
There are going to be a lot of uncomfortable, truthful conversations between the two of you before your case is resolved, so get used to it. So start your legal relationship out on the right foot. It will be worth it!