I am not perfect by any means, but I truly enjoy helping clients who are facing charges. Unlike what I have heard and seen, I do not sugarcoat the merits of your case. If you are screwed, I will tell you that. If I think you can fight the case, I will tell you that. However, neither one of these opinions is final. I refuse to lie to potential clients in order to lure them into paying my fees. I find that there is a breed of criminal defense attorney that prey on the insecurities and fears of their client base. These guys tell clients what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.
For instance, if someone tells you they can beat your case. Ask him or her if they are willing to go to trial. Believe it or not, similar to my experiences in the military, not every lawyer is willing to go the full distance. There is a breed of lawyer that is afraid to go to trial. These guys will not tell clients this fact before they are paid their fees. In my opinion you put your client in a horrible position when you are an attorney who knows they will not go to trial. For those of you who watch mixed martial arts or boxing, it's like being one-dimensional. You do not want a one-dimensional fighter. And honestly, most cases do not go to trial, but to have a one trick pony is not a good idea.
I have had an attorney literally tell me "I don't have time to go to trial, I have too many cases." This was done with a straight face. Call me an idealist, but this isn't right, because I am sure he didn't tell his clients this before he was hired. Albeit many clients want to be pled out as soon as possible. Why some attorneys adopt this idea is beyond me, but in my limited observations, I believe most clients are looking for someone who will fight for their rights. Most people believe in the attorney they hire. Nevertheless, I believe it is important to have someone on your team that is willing to offer the full array of options available to you in the criminal justice system. Otherwise you are left to simply plea your case.
This brings me to my next point, some criminal defense attorneys are what are known as "plea attorneys". This breed of attorney is going to try to get as much money out of you as fast as possible and plea you on the next setting, so they can maintain their business model. This business model includes luring as many clients as possible and forcing them to accept a pleas. Simply put, this is a quantity not quality attorney.
Here are some questions I think you should ask your attorney before you hire him or her:
- Do you practice this sort of law?
- Why do you practice this sort of law?
- What do you think about my case?
- What bar associations are you a part of?
- Can you explain your fees to me and why are they so high or so low?
- Will one of your former client's let me talk them about their experience?
Here are some things I have heard from clients that concern me:
- I want to get this thing over with as quick as possible. Well the fastest way to get something over with is to take a guilty plea. So, those of you out there who are about plea on your first setting, think again. Never rush to failure. You haven't even seen the evidence yet. Make sure you are making a good decision, which is usually not a brash decision.
- I had a friend who got this punishment when he did the same crime. Every case is different. Was it a bad stop? Did he snitch on someone else? What state was it in? Were there witnesses? Footage? A Confession? What year was it in? Is he or she simply lying to you? That's right, you don't know. Life, let alone the criminal justice system, is not a one size fits all thing. You have to work with the facts of your case.
- I might have to go to jail. Yes, it's a possibility. If you are charged with a crime, jail is a potential option. Understand the severity of the crime you have committed. Often times you need to also look at your criminal history. A repeat offender will be treated differently from a person without a criminal history.
- We just used a lawyer who does business with my friend. This is fine, but did you at least research them. Vetting is key before putting your life in anyone's hands. Too often I have had people come ask me to take a case from the family friend who is a lawyer. I usually won't do it because I don't want to get blamed for someone else's mistakes. But I will often look them up out of curiosity and see that they do not hold themselves out as practicing the area of law. That should be a potential red flag. Doesn't mean they do not do it, but should create some questions.
Also, be careful of attorneys who request a lot of money upfront, but do very little work upfront. I have seen attorneys go to court and not even look at the file, make any copies, or do any sort of investigation. Demand to see what's going on with your case, not just words, but documents, motions, etc. The more you pay for the case, the more action should take place. Be careful of lazy attorneys, as well. These attorneys generally operate plea mills where they take your money and plea you out without the benefit of reviewing your files, checking the scene, or looking at the evidence.
Please know that the purpose of this post isn't to say you should hire our firm, the purpose is to let you know that it is important that you make a careful choice about who you do hire to represent you.