The first thing to understand is that even if you cannot afford a criminal attorney, you will still need help. Usually in cases like these, a public defender is assigned. However, if you can hire someone there are some things you will need to know in order to be sure that you have the representation you deserve to protect your rights.
You can first conduct free searches on the internet, or through specialized websites for that purpose. When you do search for a criminal attorney, you may notice that you have to expand your searches to include cities close to you. Once you have a list, you can usually first look at their website, or even find reviews and other information about them online. From there, a few simple guidelines can help you choose the right one for your case.
To narrow the list down in the beginning, you will want to look up biographical information. You will find this usually on their website, and it is vital that you choose a criminal attorney with knowledge of the area of law you need. You might also look to see if they belong to any professional associations that would also further their knowledge, as well as years of expertise in that particular field.
Pay attention to any blogs, articles or other publications that have come out not only by the firm they belong to, but also the counsel themselves. These informational pieces should be able to help you to better understand the basics, but never give actual legal advice. It’s important to note that advice given online isn’t reliable and you will still need to hire counsel to help you handle your case.
Word of mouth is another effective way to know if the professional you are looking into is one you can work with. Ask around to those who may have used their services, or even ask others for the legal help they recommend. You can also visit the state bar association website to be sure that they are in good standing, and there may be archives in your local paper that reveal publicity and cases they have been involved with.
Understand that counsel almost always charges by the hour or using a flat fee before the case begins. Many states have laws against legal professionals charging a contingent fee in criminal cases, but rates are typically very competitive, so shop around. It’s also important to understand that while an experienced professional may charge more, they might still yet not be the best to handle your case. Take into account more factors than just your budget, as it should be one of the very last considerations in choosing.
Also, understand that unless you have very unique circumstances, hiring a local counsel is always best. Jurisdiction issues and local law are best handled by those with experience in those areas. The cases that happen in a jurisdiction where you do not reside may also be best handled by a professional from that area.