Legal Law

Criminal Defense: what you should know before hiring a lawyer

How to hire a criminal defense attorney

Years ago there was a famous financial planning commercial that showed an average-looking man in pajamas placing a butter knife next to his chest at the breakfast table while on the phone with someone explaining how to make the incision. For a few brief seconds, the screen splits to reveal that the person on the other end of the phone call was a jerk. At this point, our dumbfounded man at the breakfast table bluntly exclaims, “Shouldn’t you be doing this?” And in doing so, he made the obvious point: We trust professionals to handle vital matters. In that case, surgery to those who are properly trained to do so. The same is true when your freedom is at stake. If your life or the liberty of a loved one is in danger, you need a criminal defense attorney.

Surprisingly, there are some people who, when faced with the threat of rotting in the bowels of jail, will choose to handle the matter themselves or seek the help of a friend who has a friend who practices some kind of law but knows the prosecutor. . Meanwhile, others rightly believe they need professional help, but approach the search as if they were shopping for a paper towel deal at Walmart. This is also the wrong approach. When it comes to choosing your surgeon, the man who packs your parachute, or the person who protects your freedom, please don’t “haggle.” Trust me; you will pay in the end. It’s much better to pay a little more money up front than to pay with your life at the end. At the end of the day it’s just money and if you’re free and working you can easily get back the money you spent on your defense but if you go to jail the few cents you make a day won’t amount to much even after serving a sentence. long sentence in jail.

I realize that most law-abiding citizens do not have a successful criminal defense attorney on “speed dial.” Lawyers are not created equal. We come in all shapes and sizes. However, there is a common misconception that graduating from law school and passing the bar exam instills you with some sort of insider knowledge that makes you capable of handling any legal matter. This is simply not so. Think about it, if he had a persistent headache and nose bleed, would he call his dentist? Chiropodist? Probably not. Instead, you’ll probably call an internal medicine doctor or neurosurgeon because those doctors are trained for that precise problem. The same should be said for your attorney.

I am a criminal defense attorney. As a New Orleans prosecutor, I prosecuted over a hundred cases ranging from drug possession to murder. Now, as a defense attorney, I am proud to handle some of the most complex federal and most famous state trials in our area. I don’t write wills. Don’t call me about a pending bankruptcy. I have no idea how to handle those cases and you would be doing neither of us a favor if I use your case to learn.

Surprisingly, some attorneys are so desperate for business that they practice every type of law imaginable. Beware of any attorney who claims they handle “no-fault divorces,” “slip and fall cases,” and “death penalty cases.” I have spent many hours, indeed years, perfecting my craft. The person defending your life should too. Remember the old adage “jack of all trades and master of none”? You owe it to yourself to hire a professional dedicated to your area of ​​law that you need. I think that those lawyers who apparently take all the cases do so because they need the money to pay their electric bill. You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you stay away from these people.

One thing to realize is that attorneys are salespeople. So just like your tour of the used car lot, you need to keep your guard up and not fall for gimmicky slogans and BS sales pitches. I suggest you distinguish real trial attorneys from pretenders and ask the following questions:

1. Do you try cases before juries and, if so, how many have you tried? Real trial attorneys try cases. Fake trial attorneys claim to try cases.

2. What experience do you have with this type of case? Remember, not all attorneys are the same. Do you really want your homicide case handled by a traffic court specialist? I wouldn’t want my freedom to serve as someone else’s “learning curve”!

3. What percentage of your practice is devoted to criminal defense? I would be careful with general practitioners. I enjoy criminal defense. I know nothing about property disputes, wills, or the nuances of regulatory law. Just as you wouldn’t want your bondage rights case litigated, you wouldn’t want the best divorce attorney in town picking the jury for your armed robbery trial. Let’s be honest, one person cannot master multiple unrelated areas of the law. There is truth to the old saying, “jack of all trades, master of none.”

4. What kind of access will you have to lawyers? Some people take their fee and disappear. Personally, I have no problem providing my cell phone number to a client. We assign a dedicated paralegal to each file who can answer basic questions about the case if needed. We provide the client with copies of any pleadings that are filed in the case and promise to review the materials with them; even if they are incarcerated. This raises another point: We routinely visit incarcerated clients and accept their collect phone calls. If your prospective attorney is not easily accessible, you may want to reconsider. But at a minimum, you should know the level of access you’re getting for your money.

5. Clearly communicate your goals. Expectations are important. If you have a desired outcome in mind, it is imperative that you communicate this to your attorney. Disaster will happen if you want the charges dismissed but the attorney is thinking of a “quick plea.” Be clear. And wait for the lawyer to advise you if your goal is realistic. Please note that some people will say anything to get your money. If grandiose claims are made, demand that they be put in writing. I promise you’ll see some street vending fast. Please note: No attorney can guarantee results.

If your potential attorney engages in any of these activities, please back off immediately:

1. The Guarantee: No lawyer can guarantee a result. Countless families have hired our firm after originally hiring an attorney who said, “pay me x, and Mr. Client gets out of jail.” If only it were that simple. When you hear those words, demand that the promise be put in writing along with a full refund clause if the promise cannot be fulfilled.

2. No Receipts or Scope Letters – Beware of any attorney who is unwilling to describe the precise scope of their representation and the fees involved. If you don’t get a commitment on scope and fees, don’t be surprised when requests for more cash keep coming in and you feel like the case isn’t progressing as expected. Also, be very suspicious of any attorney who fails to provide you with a payment receipt that accurately reflects the balance due. Any lawyer who refuses to do so is probably a lawyer pocketing money “off the books.” Our firm receipts and reports every penny earned in fees. We don’t believe in “IRS High Interest Loans”.

3. Soliciting: It is unethical for an attorney to directly solicit your business. Advertising is allowed but is subject to strict regulation and scrutiny. A lawyer can’t call him or knock on his door saying ‘I know you’ve been arrested and I can help you.’ If this happens, slam the door or hang up the phone. This conduct will cause the attorney to be disqualified. Also, think about it, if an attorney is willing to engage in an unethical practice to get her business, what quality of representation do you think he will receive?

4. Promotes Influence: Any attorney who focuses their practice heavily on criminal law will be familiar with prosecutors and judges. We know them all. There is nothing special about that. Don’t be fooled by “I know the judge” or “the prosecutor and I are friends.” I don’t know of a judge or prosecutor willing to do anything illegal to help your case. Any suggestion to the contrary is a federal crime for bribery and public corruption. Ideally, meeting the prosecutor and judge will provide background information on how they handle similar cases and resolve important legal issues. Nothing else. So, don’t be fooled by attorneys who claim to be golf partners with the judge.

The bottom line is that you owe it to yourself to go and get the best criminal defense attorney you can afford if you are under investigation. Beware of people making “pie in the sky” promises and be sure to communicate your expectations. Most people should be able to find quality representation at an affordable price. Once your list of candidates is narrowed down, you should be inclined to select from those qualified attorneys with whom you feel comfortable. After all, you have to trust this person and the advice he gives you. Your life depends on that.