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How do I Find a Criminal Defense Attorney?

How do I Find a Criminal Defense Attorney?

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Finding the right criminal defense attorney for your case may take some work on your part. There are undoubtedly scores of criminal defense lawyers in your county or town, but finding one who is competent and experienced in a case like yours is essential if you want the best opportunity for a satisfactory outcome.

Type of Charge

Most competent and experienced criminal defense lawyers have handled or even tried different kinds of cases, from prostitution, simple theft, DUI, sexual assault, to homicide. But many attorneys try to concentrate their practices on either misdemeanor cases or more serious charges. Some may narrow their practices to only handling DUI cases or sexual offenses.

If you have a DUI case, you should narrow your search to a firm or criminal defense lawyer that primarily handles DUI cases. DUI cases are prevalent, so a DUI lawyer who handles only these cases will usually have tried, negotiated, and successfully resolved hundreds or thousands of DUI cases.

If your offense is more serious, such as a homicide or sexual assault, find a firm that has a reputation for these types of crimes. Judges and prosecutors will be familiar with such an attorney and will respect their abilities in court.

A white collar crime, such as insider trading or stock or other financial fraud, will require a firm that primarily handles these cases due to their complexity.

If you have few resources or are indigent, you may be eligible for a court-appointed attorney from the public defender’s office, which may be without charge or for some minimal amount. Many of these attorneys are excellent, but a good number are often overworked and overwhelmed with cases, or are just out of law school.


Many of the most competent attorneys who handle your type of case are found through referrals from other legal professionals or from friends and family. These criminal defense attorneys often primarily rely on such referrals and have solidified their reputations over the years with judges, juries, among their peers, and often in the press.

In any event, you should still research further if you have any doubts, especially if you know the attorney might be elderly or had some client complaints. The local bar association will have any records of disciplinary actions against an attorney.

Internet or Yellow Pages

Without a referral, you can select any number of criminal defense lawyers in your area online or in the print yellow pages. Again, choose several who primarily practice the type of offense for which you are charged. Although these are just advertisements, you can get a sense of which attorneys might be appropriate for your case.

Legal Directories

A legal directory such as LegalMatch or Martindale-Hubbell will list the attorneys along with their educational background, employment, and certification. Some attorneys have an AV-rating, which is based on reviews by other attorneys.

The Interview

Depending on whether you are facing a misdemeanor or a felony, criminal defense attorneys are expensive, especially if they have been successful, so you need to be prepared to spend thousands of dollars.

At the office, ask as many questions as you can about the attorney’s trial experience and familiarity with your type of case. You will need to tell the attorney everything about your case, including anything that could negatively affect the outcome, so the attorney can adequately assess your case. Everything you say is confidential so it makes no sense to withhold any information since it will likely come out anyway and could destroy your chances of a favorable outcome if your attorney was not prepared to address it.

Ask about how you can pay for your defense and about expenses. Review the retainer agreement carefully. If the attorney appears professional, well-informed, honest about your case, and sincere about representing you, then you may have found the right criminal defense attorney for your case.

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