Having a knowledgeable and experienced criminal lawyer in NJ by your side can give you a significant advantage when facing criminal charges. But how do you decide who would be the best lawyer for your case? Keep reading to learn more about what criminal defense attorneys do and how you can find the right one for you.
What is a criminal defense attorney?
If this is your first time facing criminal charges, you’re likely filled with questions about how to move forward. First, it’s important to understand what a criminal defense attorney does so you know what to look for when you’re conducting your search.
Defendants hire criminal defense attorneys to provide legal assistance and guidance throughout a criminal case. A criminal lawyer represents the defendant and should have the defendant’s best interest in mind. Criminal attorneys investigate their client’s criminal case with a fresh set of eyes. They interview witnesses, analyze the evidence, discover new evidence, and negotiate with the prosecutor.
Criminal defense attorneys sometimes also act as personal counselors to defendants during the course of the case. They help their clients understand the potential penalties and what kind of deal would be best for their circumstances. They also tell defendants what to wear in court, how to respond to questions, and offer general support throughout the criminal justice process.
A criminal defense attorney with experience as a prosecutor offers a lot of benefits. Because a criminal attorney frequently has to make deals and compromise with prosecutors, they tend to be better negotiators when they’ve been on both sides of the aisle.
Should I hire an attorney, get a court-appointed attorney, or represent myself?
It’s common for first-offenders to question the best path for their defense. Is this something you can handle yourself? Should you just go with a court-appointed lawyer? Or, do you find the best criminal defense attorney in the district? The answer will heavily depend on your circumstances.
Self-representation can be a considerable risk. A judge will consider several factors before allowing a defendant to represent themselves. For instance, if the crime is a serious felony and the defendant lacks education or general knowledge of the criminal justice system, there’s a minimal chance that self-representation would be approved.
The other two options are going with a court-appointed attorney or hiring private counsel. While many studies have been done on the results of a public defender vs. a private criminal defense attorney, there aren’t clear or solid answers. Generally, people will say that public defenders are often overworked and lack the resources to build a proper defense, while others have experienced positive results with public defenders.
Hiring a defense attorney that can dedicate time and attention to your case can provide many benefits. Criminal defense attorneys often have a team of associates to help with gathering evidence, investigations, questioning witnesses, and other legal tasks. Overall, it’s best to consider your circumstances and do your research before you decide to hire a defense lawyer or go with a court-appointed lawyer.
What questions should I ask a criminal lawyer?
Most criminal attorneys provide a free consultation when you first make contact with them. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for this consultation. By asking the right questions, you can tell if this is the right attorney for you and the best possible path forward. Here are some essential questions to ask your potential criminal defense attorney:
- Do you have experience in criminal cases like mine?
- What is your success rate?
- What kind of defense strategy do you see applying to my case?
- Will you be handling my case or one of your associates?
- How often do your cases go to trial?
- Will I be able to contact you when I have a question?
- Is there anything that I can do to contribute to the defense plan?
- What are your fees?
Answers to these questions can help you know if you’re getting the best lawyer for your criminal case. Understanding things like experience, success records, costs, accessibility, and defense strategies can help you make the right decision.
How much does a criminal defense attorney cost?
The cost of a criminal defense lawyer will range widely according to things like the severity of the crime and the attorney’s experience. If you’re looking for the best defense attorney for your criminal case, there’s a strong chance the costs will be high.
Criminal attorneys typically charge by the hour or will provide a set or fixed fee. Remember that a private attorney can’t set contingency fees, which means they can’t charge according to the case’s outcome. Hourly fees commonly start around $100-$200 an hour, and the more experienced an attorney is, the higher the hourly rate.
Of course, a public defender is paid for by the government and is court-appointed. While you may save on cost, keep in mind that you can’t choose your public defender —one will be assigned to your case. This is one of the benefits of choosing to hire private counsel. You can interview different attorneys and select the one that’s the best fit for your criminal charges.
How will a good criminal defense attorney help with my criminal case?
Getting a good criminal defense attorney to take your case is one of the best initial steps you can take after an arrest. A skilled criminal lawyer will be wholly dedicated to your case, investigate the crime from multiple perspectives, discover new evidence, interview witnesses, and offer legal guidance.
A highly rated criminal defense attorney is typically a savvy negotiator. If you’d prefer to avoid a trial and face minimal penalties, you need an experienced criminal lawyer in New Jersey. Seasoned attorneys will know what’s in your best interest and be the one source of support you can count on throughout a criminal case.