Determine whether you need a defense attorney
Someone charged with crimes will almost always benefit from competent legal representation. There is not a level playing field between the government and an individual accused, therefore it is almost certainly critical for you to have a criminal defense attorney. This is especially true when a jail or a prison sentence is a possible result. It is very difficult for a person to competently handle his or her own criminal case.
Know what kind of defense attorney you need.
First, you will need to determine if you need a state or federal attorney. If you are accused of breaking a state law, hire an attorney that specializes in state law; and if you are accused of violating a federal law, seek an attorney that regularly practices in federal courts. Next, seek a criminal defense attorney who concentrates his/her practice in the area of defense that you need. A lawyer may concentrate in an area but may not claim to be a specialist unless an outside agency certified to make the designation, awards him/her with that designation. Many criminal defense attorneys do concentrate their experience in some particular type of case. It is important that you find out whether a particular attorney has experience in your type of case. For example, defending people accused of sex assault can be very difficult and you should ask the potential attorney about his/her experience with that particular type of case. Finally, select an attorney based on the stage your criminal case is at; if you have just been charged, you want an experienced criminal defense trial attorney. Ask the attorney if she/he has extensive trial experience. If you are seeking post-conviction or appellate relief, you should seek an experienced appellate attorney. Know what kind of defense attorney you need.
Trust your instincts
Take inventory after speaking with a potential attorney regarding your feelings. Did it feel right? Did the attorney seem knowledgeable? Did the attorney seem to understand your situation? Did the attorney show up timely and respect your schedule? Did the attorney exhibit empathy? Trust your gut – if it doesn’t not seem right, it probably isn’t. If you don’t like your attorney then you should heed that signal. At least like and trust your attorney. Trust your instincts
The difference between a defense attorney and a public defender.
If you have been charged with a crime, you are entitled to legal representation to protect your rights. If you cannot afford to hire a criminal defense attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you. A public defender is appointed by the court to represent a person who does not have the financial resources with which to hire a private attorney. Public defenders are paid by the state government in the local area where they practice, and they are not affiliated with the prosecution. Public defenders are licensed attorneys with extensive experience in criminal cases. A private criminal law attorney is hired and paid directly by clients. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer can become very expensive, depending on the complexity of your case. Criminal attorneys may bill on an hourly basis or may ask for a flat fee. In addition to the fee arrangements, you will be required to pay court costs and various expenses, including fees for investigators and expert witnesses. So which type of criminal defense attorney should you chose? If you cannot afford a private attorney than the answer is clear. If you can afford a private attorney, this gives you the flexibility of choosing the exact attorney that will handle your case after shopping around and meeting different lawyers. Many argue that since private attorneys have much smaller case-loads than public defenders, that they have more time to work on a case, interview witnesses, investigate and meet with the client, and even return phone calls.