Find the best criminal lawyer for you
The process of finding and hiring the best criminal lawyer for an appeal or to defend you against criminal charges can be a complicated process. The choice is critical when your life or freedom is on the line.
When the criminal lawyer takes a client’s case it comes with great responsibility. The client puts his or her future and possibly freedom in the hands of the lawyer. This article explains what you should consider before you hire the best criminal lawyer for you.
The Initial Interview
The “best” criminal lawyer for an individual will vary from person to person. Everyone has different needs and expectations. One person’s choice of a lawyer may not be the right choice for you. However, there is a way to help you find the best criminal attorney for you. The process starts with the initial consultation. The consultation is the most critical step in your search for a criminal attorney. You will learn a lot about your potential criminal lawyer at this meeting. While a phone consultation is a good starting point, nothing beats an appointment. You should schedule a personal meeting in the lawyer’s office. You most assuredly want to meet the criminal lawyer who may handle your criminal case. For example, our office wants to sit and talk with the client because when such an important decision must be made, we want people to be confident in the criminal lawyer they hire.
During the initial meeting, the lawyer should ascertain the charges you will be facing. In an appeal consultation, the lawyer should learn the basic facts regarding the trial and conviction. Since, a criminal case can affect a family, the prospective lawyer should get to know the family members if you want them to be present. They can be a great source of support.
As you talk, the lawyer should begin to take notes regarding your background and history so he or she can learn a little more about you. Any records that you bring to the consultation must be closely reviewed. At all times the lawyer should keep an open mind regarding the facts of the case, witness statements and evidence. It is too early to make decisions regarding guilty or innocence. The primary purpose of the meeting is to gather information and listen to the client. The lawyer should carefully listen to everything you say about the case because your life can be affected by the charges, whether it is a civil infraction, felony or misdemeanor. You should receive an honest assessment of the case. As you can tell, the initial consultation is the first step to establishing a good attorney-client relationship.
When we start any case we look at the charges or appeal from the client’s perspective. Most criminal lawyers do not take the time to see things from the client’s viewpoint. We do understand, whether it is trial work or an appeal, a client feels a great deal of stress and anxiety regarding his or her case. We imagine what it would feel like to have our lives put on hold and our freedom placed in jeopardy because of criminal charges. In doing this, we never lose sight of the fact that each case should be treated with the same dedication because a criminal case can change a person’s life. Looking at the case from the client’s viewpoint reminds us to communicate with the client clearly so he or she understands every step of the pretrial, trial, or appeal process. We ask, “if our family member was facing a criminal case, what would we do?” “Are we doing everything we can?” Because of that philosophy, we put more into a consultation than many lawyers. Even if you do not hire our firm, we can promise you that you will not receive more information from another consultation with a different attorney. We recognize that our decision to take your case and your decision to hire our firm can be a life changing choice.
You should ask yourself the following questions after the consultation:
- Does the criminal lawyer understand how important this case is to me?
- Does the lawyer understand how the case can impact my family or children?
- Can I work with and speak openly to this lawyer?
- Does the lawyer explain things in a way that I can understand?
- Does the lawyer show a genuine concern for me?
- Does the lawyer seem like he or she has a strong desire to want to help me?
- Do I trust this lawyer?
1. Ask if your attorney has the proper experience with your type of case
If you are facing criminal charges, you must find an attorney who has represented clients with the same or similar charges. Ask questions. Ask as many questions as you have to until you understand your situation. You should always ask about the attorney’s experience with trials, motions and litigation. Never hire a criminal lawyer who is vague or refuses to discuss his or her experience. An experienced attorney will have no problem explaining his or her legal battles.
If you are looking for a criminal appeal lawyer, you should ask to see writing samples. Specifically, ask to see a legal brief. Is the legal writing persuasive? Is it clear and coherent. Ask for any legal opinions from the trial court or Court of Appeals from the criminal lawyer’s appeals. Our office, for example, provides them upon request.
Some sample questions could include:
- Do you have experience handling charges similar to mine?
- Who will personally handle my case?
- Do you go to trial? What types of cases have you taken to jury trial?
- Can you provide examples of good plea deals you have negotiated?
- What are your attorney’s fees? Do you offer a payment plan?
- Do you have any sample motions or legal briefs?
- How often are you in the court I have to appear in?
- Are you familiar with the judge that will be handling my case?
- How is your relationship with the prosecutors?
- What percentage of your work is criminal defense?
One thing we will not do is quote legal fees over the phone. Hiring a criminal lawyer can affect your life. That is why we feel it our duty to meet you personally.
When you meet with the criminal lawyer ask what the fees will be. Ask the attorney to explain the fee agreement to you line by line if necessary. For example, some criminal lawyers charge for a pretrial and plea work but charge an additional fee if the case goes to trial.
2. Does the criminal lawyer value your input or take the time to listen to you?
Your assessment of the facts is critical. Since you are charged with a crime, you know what gave rise to the criminal charges. If you have an appeal, your insight as to what happened at trial is important. We want you to provide our office a written assessment as to what happened during the incident? In an appeal we want a list of the issues you believe should be raised in the legal brief. Your version of events helps provide insight to the case. In an appeal, however, the lawyer chooses what issues should be raised. Your input helps inform that decision. Your lawyer’s ability to identify issues is the art of the appeal. That is why you hire a criminal lawyer with expertise. I cannot do my job properly without a good working relationship with you. You must have a voice in your case.
Whether it is the defense against criminal charges, especially serious felony charges, or an appeal, I want the client to put in writing anything that he or she believes is an issue or would be beneficial for me to know. Since you were intimately involved in the matter, you can provide good ideas.
A lawyer speaks for you. No matter how highly recommended a lawyer may be, it is also important that the lawyer be someone with whom you are personally comfortable. The best attorney-client relationships is formed when the client and attorney work as a team in the decision-making process. In that sense, you should try to hire a criminal lawyer who sees you as a partner, not simply another file in the cabinet.
3. Can your potential criminal lawyer give you honest predictions?
A good criminal lawyer advises you about the possible outcomes of a particular decision. Your lawyer should be able to predict outcomes. Although, you should remember that no attorney can guarantee an outcome. With that said, an experienced criminal lawyer can honestly explain the most likely outcome of a criminal trial or appeal. At our office, we will advise a client to reject a plea offer if the odds of winning the trial outweigh the benefits of the plea. We use our experience to predict the outcome of cases and appeals.
If a criminal lawyer tells you that he or she can guarantee an outcome, I advise that you get that guarantee in writing. Better still, if any criminal lawyer makes that prediction, you should walk away. He or she is not interested in your future but is more concerned about the retainer.
Our role as your criminal lawyer is to professionally and ethically investigate the facts and law of your case. As your criminal lawyers we must provide you with a prediction as to the outcome of any legal decision you make so that your decision is well informed. When you are fully informed you know what to expect. Ultimately, you will have to make the decision to take a plea or go to trial based on your criminal lawyer’s experienced advice.
When you hire a lawyer, he or she has a duty to you to answer all of your questions. He or she should take the time to explain the criminal charges against you, what the prosecution must prove, how the evidence weighs in favor of the defense and prosecution. Lastly, you want to know what consequences you may face if you are convicted.
4. Ask people you know for referrals
A good recommendation for a criminal lawyer can come from someone you know. If you trust and value the person’s opinion you can find a criminal lawyer you can trust. If you have a friend or family member who had been in trouble he or she should be able to make suggestions.
5. Trust your instincts
If you do not feel comfortable or your instincts suggest you look elsewhere for a criminal attorney – you should do so. After all, you should be comfortable with the person advocating on your behalf. You want someone to honestly advise you. You want to know all of your options. If your lawyer makes you uncomfortable, is impatient, or pressures you into quickly making a decision, choose another lawyer.
A criminal case is a stressful experience. Whether you are facing criminal charges or appealing your conviction, it is vital that you hire a criminal attorney who you believe will do everything he or she legally and ethically can to get you the best outcome. You must also believe that he or she has the knowledge and expertise to get the job done. Ultimately, you want a criminal lawyer who will give you honest advice and who you feel confident will commit to putting his or her best effort into defending you.
The moral of the story
I am quite sure many people who read this article have seen television or news shows where a celebrity had paid for a very expensive lawyer. Also, I am positive that you have heard someone say, “If he did not hire “BIG LAW FIRM” he would have lost.” In essence, the common misconception is that you should hire the most expensive lawyer you can afford. That would be a mistake. The most expensive attorneys are not always good lawyers. While some of them are very good, many are not. Marketing can go a long way in building a myth about a lawyer. You should, however, hire the best criminal lawyer for you.
As explained above, you must take many things into consideration when hiring a criminal lawyer. If you look-up lawyers on the internet, many are “tough, aggressive and experienced.” But, is experience always a positive thing?
I will give you an example I discussed in another article I wrote. One of the very first appeals I worked on right out of law school involved a first-degree murder charge. On appeal, I argued that the trial attorneys violated the client’s Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. I requested an evidentiary hearing to prove this to the trial court. Specifically, I argued that the client’s trial counsel were ineffective by failing to use at trial two letters written by a co-defendant. One of the letters stated that the client had nothing to do with the killings. At trial, the “letter writer” testified as a witness. He told the jury my client committed the crimes. His testimony was of course different than what he wrote in the letters. The trial lawyers never impeached the witness’s credibility with the letters exonerating him.
It got more complex because I had to cross-examine the trial attorneys. The two attorneys had 10-15 years more experience than I did. So, I had a first-degree murder appeal where I had to get the trial lawyers in a position to show that they made a mistake so prejudicial that it entitled my client to a new trial. During the evidentiary hearing, I cross-examined the trial lawyers. For several hours I attacked the manner in which they represented the client. In the end, the court granted the client a new trial.
So, as a new lawyer how much experience did I have doing this type of evidentiary hearing? None. Zero. I would bet that no one would have given me much of a chance to win that evidentiary hearing.
My very first criminal trial also ended with success. The case was in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit. Client was charged with shooting the complainant one time in the stomach. I asserted self-defense. The jury found the client not guilty of attempted murder, great bodily harm less than murder and felonious assault. Again, I had no experience at that point.
Now, I have nearly 15 years of criminal experience and have obtained many more successes in those 15 years. CZARNECKI & TAYLOR case results I just want to stress that experience, by itself, does not determine much. Yes, it is important for your attorney to have experience. What matters more is the quality of the attorneys experience. Look at experience from this angle. Some “very experienced” criminal lawyers look like they have been practicing law for an eternity. They do look like their law career has taken a toll on them both physically and mentally. Have you ever watched a famous football or baseball player with declining skills and say to yourself, “It is probably time for him to retire.” He has a lot of experience, so why is it not beneficial to the team? The answer is because he cannot perform the way he used to in his prime.
Now I want to make one thing clear. I am not saying that age and experience are a bad thing. I am not saying that experience does not matter. Quite the contrary. Experience is necessary. But, it is just one of the factors that you should consider. Consider that, the newer, less experienced attorney may be eager to prove himself or herself. He or she may be aggressive and full of fight. The older and seasoned attorney may not be up to a serious battle. On the other hand, there are veterans who are masters of the profession. They get better like fine wine. The younger attorney may make rookie mistakes and exercise bad judgments. What I am saying is that experience is not always a positive thing.
The important point that I am trying to make is that you should find a criminal lawyer with a record of success, quality experience, at a legal fee you can afford. As discussed above, you must feel comfortable with the lawyer. You must believe that the lawyer genuinely wants to take care of your case You will have to trust your criminal lawyer and divulge privileged information to him or her. What good would it do to spend a fortune on a criminal lawyer that you do not trust and who you do not believe has your best interest in mind. So far, I have shown that experience and high cost do not always equal the best defense for you. You must ask questions.
What to avoid
At the beginning of this article I emphasized the importance of the initial consultation. I would like to give you a few words of caution. Exercise caution when a lawyer tries to tell you, “Only I can get it done.” He or she is using fear to make you believe that without him or her, you have no chance. That is seldom true. If you keep looking you will find a criminal lawyer that will inspire confidence in you. There are many lawyers that can get the job done.
You should also exercise caution when a criminal lawyer tells you that the case is no problem especially if the charges are very serious. Yes, it is tempting to hire that lawyer. We all want to believe the best. You want that lawyer because the guaranteed outcome is exactly what you want to hear. That is why this type of criminal lawyer can be problematic. At times, the promises do come true. Your lawyer should have confidence. We have confidence in our ability to get the job done. But, if any criminal lawyer tells you the case will be taken care of before you even hire him or her, you should be very cautious. No attorney can guarantee you the outcome of case. Yes, a criminal lawyer can tell you the likely outcome and make a prediction based on knowledge and experience. But, a criminal lawyer cannot ethically guarantee you the outcome. To be clear, no one knows the result in a case that goes to trial because the decision of guilt or innocence is left to a judge or jury. Please are somewhat different because the outcome is negotiated.
It is our hope that this article provides you with some concepts to keep in mind when you search for the best criminal lawyer for you. When you read other criminal lawyer’s websites they almost all say that they are tough, aggressive and experienced. If all the websites say that, how can you make a decision to hire the best criminal lawyer for you? As I said at the beginning, the initial consultation is the first step to hiring a criminal lawyer. Ask questions.
At our office, we want to make sure every client gets first class treatment. That means every single case. As criminal lawyers, while we cannot control the facts or the law, and even though we cannot guarantee the outcome, you will know that we have worked hard on your case. You will know that we were responsive to your needs.
As you can see from this article we think about and treat our clients differently than most lawyers. At our office we never want a client to second-guess his or her decisions. That is why we take a great deal of time talking with them.
Many clients have put their faith and confidence in our office. We have been able to deliver them successful results whether in plea bargains, trials and appeals.
If you want to discuss your case you can reach us 24-7/365. We have weekend and evening appointment availability. All consultations are free.
JAMES E. CZARNECKI II (586) 718-2345
GENEVIEVE L. TAYLOR (586) 350-6044