Find an Affordable Criminal Defense Lawyer

Contributor, Benzinga

Your rights as Americans include the right to an attorney. It’s never more important to exercise this right than when you find yourself on the defendant’s side of a criminal case. Whether you’ve been arrested, face sentencing or are trying to appeal or deal with post-trial issues, a criminal defense lawyer can fight to ensure you receive a fair outcome.

Finding a quality defense attorney that won’t break your budget is not an easy task, but it’s possible if you take your time to do your research. Start with our guide to find an affordable criminal defense lawyer today.

Criminal Defense Cases

You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a criminal defense attorney, but it’s important to find an attorney who is well-versed in the legal issues you are dealing with. Look for someone who has experience with cases similar to yours, lives nearby, doesn’t have any past misdemeanors, and most importantly, feels like someone who cares about your situation and is motivated to help you. 

Start by searching through different lawyers on lawyer.com and rocketlawyer.com. Get a feel for the different rates they charge and their experience. Don’t be afraid to talk to more than 1 lawyer as long as your initial consultation is free. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to get some basic knowledge about the most common kinds of criminal cases. 

Arrest

An arrest happens when police take you into custody, and you are not allowed to leave. This can be a frightening scenario for many people. But it’s important to remember to stay calm and that you are entitled to certain rights. 

You do have the right to be silent and the right to speak to an attorney. It’s important that you speak with an attorney before you talk about the situation or make any decisions about your case. You may also have the right to a phone call and a bail bondsman depending on the state you’ve been arrested in. 

Typically, you will not be held for more than 48 hours if you have not been charged with a crime. If you have been charged with a crime, your lawyer will need to advise you on how to move forward. It’s possible you will need to make bail or show up in court before you are allowed out of jail. In some scenarios, you may not be able to leave jail at all. Your attorney is in the best position to explain each possible scenario and outcome. 

Sentencing

Once you’ve been charged with a crime, appeared in court, presented your evidence and received a guilty verdict, you begin the sentencing process. Sentencing is when the judge determines your punishment. You may receive probation, community service or significant jail time. Your sentence will ultimately depend on your crime, your criminal history and how well you and your lawyer have presented your case. 

At this point, your case is in the judge’s hands. He or she alone will determine your sentence. Although there is little your attorney can do at this point, it’s still important to follow their advice and instructions carefully. They may instruct you not to speak openly about the case, to refrain from certain activities, to restrict your movements or other precautions

It is the judge’s responsibility to set a sentencing date. You will have to appear in court on this date. Most defendants receive their sentencing about 90 days after a guilty verdict or plea deal. 

Appeals

An appeal is a challenge to an official decision. You may be able to appeal the outcome of your case in specific scenarios. For starters, you can’t appeal a judge’s decision simply because you disagree with the sentencing or outcome. You can only appeal if you and your attorney believe that there were mistakes made during the trial or that the judge interpreted the law incorrectly. 

Consult with your attorney to see if it is possible to appeal your case. If your attorney believes there are grounds to submit an appeal, it will go to the Court of Appeals for review. The Court of Appeals will determine whether you received a fair trial or not. They will not consider any new evidence or even review evidence from your case. If it’s determined that there were significant errors made during your trial, you may be granted a new trial or a different outcome. 

Appealing is a lengthy and costly process. It could take anywhere from a year to several years to receive a decision. It’s also important to remember that there is no guarantee the Court of Appeals will agree to give you a new trial or change your verdict. In fact, a majority of the time the Court of Appeals will uphold the trial court’s decision. Talk with your attorney to determine whether it is worthwhile for you to appeal. 

Post-trial Issues

It’s possible that after your trial you may need additional legal services. These can include motions for a new trial, sentencing, motions to reconsider the sentence, expungement proceedings, clemency or other post-conviction motions allowed in your state. 

Most criminal attorneys are also well-versed in post-trial issues. However, you may not have the right to an attorney for all post-trial proceedings. If this is the case, you will need to pay for an attorney yourself.

Consult with an attorney to determine whether it makes sense to pursue post-conviction proceedings. The length of time it will take to settle post-trial issues can range from a few months to a few years and will ultimately depend on the specifics of your case. 

Do You Need to be Present?

An attorney can handle the most complicated aspects of your case and help you navigate the legal system. However, you will still need to be present when you consult with your attorney, during the trial, during the sentencing and throughout other important parts of your criminal case. Most of the time, you will be allowed to have your attorney present.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve had criminal charges made against you, it’s recommended you seek professional legal advice to help you move forward. This doesn’t mean that you can speak with just any lawyer. 

You’ll need to find an attorney that has extensive experience in the field that relates to your case. Only someone that has a proven track record of success in defending people with similar charges to yours will be positioned best to help you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between a lawyer and an attorney?

A: The words lawyer and attorney are often used interchangeably to describe the same job. However, an attorney is a lawyer but a lawyer is not necessarily an attorney. An attorney is someone who has passed the bar exam and is allowed to practice law. A lawyer may have studied law, but they may not always be allowed to practice law. 

Q: How much does it cost for a criminal lawyer?

A: Criminal lawyers charge a flat rate or hourly fees. How much your attorney charges you will ultimately depend on a variety of factors including where you live, if they work for a private firm or a non-profit, their experience, the type of charges against you as well as other factors. Make sure to look at a few different lawyers to get an idea of how much their service will cost. 

Q: What happens if I can’t afford a lawyer? 

A: You have a right to an attorney even if you can’t afford 1. If this is your situation, the court will appoint an attorney to your case. Most likely, you will not have a say in choosing your attorney.