When You Need To Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney

Being arrested or charged with a crime for which one might be forced to serve time in jail is a harrowing situation for most people. In order to avoid a conviction, they need the help of criminal defense lawyers. These are attorneys who specialize in defending individuals accused of various crimes, from misdemeanors to felonies.
A criminal defense attorney can be hired long before charges are brought against an individual. In many situations, the individual is aware he or she is part of a criminal investigation and retains the help of a lawyer at that time.
Legal help can also be sought at the time of an arrest. An arrest can be made for little more than probable cause, and does not mean the individual has been charged with any type of criminal conduct. The officer making the arrest typically informs the person that he or she has the right to an attorney. If there is reason to believe the officer lacks probable cause, a criminal defense lawyer can be hired to address that issue.
After an arrest has been made, the suspect is brought into court for an arraignment. This is the point in the criminal procedure during which charges are brought against the individual. Up to this point, he or she can get by without the help of an attorney. At the arraignment, however, the judge will inform the suspect that he or she has the right to legal representation before the case proceeds.
What Happens If You Cannot Afford An Attorney?
Suppose you have been arrested and charged with a crime. At your arraignment, you enter a plea of "not guilty." The judge will tell you to retain an attorney for your defense. If you are unable to afford the services of a private criminal defense lawyer, the judge can appoint a public defender for you.
Public defenders are licensed attorneys. They spend most of their time defending individuals who have been accused of various crimes, and cannot afford to hire their own lawyers. (Courts will occasionally rely on private firms to provide for the defense of such suspects.) You can have a public defender appointed to your case by the court. If you are accused of a crime for which you face the prospect of jail time, you have a right to free, court-appointed legal representation.
Having A Lawyer Appointed For You By The Court
During your arraignment, when the judge informs you of your right to an attorney, ask that the court appoint one for you. Keep in mind that although you may have the right to free legal counsel (depending on your circumstances), you will be asked to substantiate your need. The judge will ask you to describe your financial situation, and explain why it precludes you from hiring your own private attorney.
If your financial situation merits the appointment of a public defender, one may be appointed to your case at that time. If the judge determines that your situation makes you ineligible for court-appointed legal counsel, you'll be required to retain your own lawyer.
Opting To Pay For A Private Attorney
The services of a private criminal defense attorney can be costly. But if you are facing the risk of going to prison, the cost may be worthwhile. Fees fall within a wide range, and are influenced by numerous factors. For example, the cost of defending against a felony is generally higher than the cost of defending against a misdemeanor. Felonies tend to involve more preparation and more time spent in court.
Another factor is how much experience a lawyer has in defending cases. Someone who has recently been approved by the American Bar Association will cost less to retain than a professional with decades of criminal defense experience under his or her belt. The more experience an attorney has, the higher his or her fees are likely to be.
Plan to pay several thousands of dollars to hire a criminal defense lawyer. It's important to note that attorneys are prohibited from working on a contingency basis for these type of cases. In other words, you will likely be required to pay a substantial portion of the fees upfront. Given the risk of spending time in prison, doing so may be an easy decision to make.


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