Selecting the best criminal defense attorney for you

Selecting the best criminal defense attorney for you

If you are found guilty of a criminal offense, then the potential consequences can be severe. They include jail time, fines, possible forfeiture of property, and a criminal record that will cause problems for you long after authorities decide that your debt to society has been paid. With so much at stake, you need to select a criminal defense attorney with trial experience, a good record of litigation success, and expert knowledge of the laws you are accused of breaking.

Narrowing down your choices

Depending on where you reside, you may find yourself faced with literally hundreds of choices. To narrow it down to three or four potential attorneys, research each candidate’s background and their success rate in cases like yours. It is important to remember that years in practice and years of experience are not always equal. A lawyer who has been in full-time criminal defense practice for five years may be a better choice than someone who has been practicing law for 20 years but has little criminal defense experience.

Meet face-to-face

Once the list has been narrowed down, schedule consultations with your attorneys of choice. (Many criminal defense lawyers offer a free initial consultation.) Provide them with details of your case and ask some or all of the following questions:

  •     What percentage of your cases have gone to trial? If you do end up going to court, then you want an attorney who is effective in a courtroom setting.
  •     How many acquittals have you secured? While a majority of not guilty verdicts is no guarantee that your case will experience the same outcome, it does suggest that the attorney has a record of positive results.
  •     How many cases have you handled that are like mine? No two cases are exactly alike, but it is preferable to work with an attorney who has handled cases similar to yours.
  •     Who will be handling my case with you? You need to know who your primary point of contact will be, as well as his or her experience in preparing and helping to defend criminal charges.
  •     What are the anticipated costs? Costs tend to vary according to the complexity of the case. The lawyer may charge you a flat fee up front, bill you by the hour, or use a payment arrangement that combines the two. There are also filing fees and related court costs, so get an idea of how much you will be charged before you sign the retainer agreement.

After you decide

Once you have selected an attorney and he or she has agreed to represent you, it is critical that you be completely honest with him or her at all times, especially regarding the circumstances leading up to the arrest. Anything you say is protected under attorney-client privilege, which means it can’t be used against you later in any criminal proceedings.

Your attorney will review the following with you:

  •     The charges
  •     Potential defenses
  •     What the prosecution team must prove to obtain a guilty verdict
  •     Plea bargaining options

While your attorney can provide a general overview of possible outcomes, no results can be guaranteed. The result of your case can depend on an agreement made with the prosecutor or a decision by a judge or jury. Your criminal defense attorney will, however, commit to protecting your rights and getting the best outcome for your circumstances. Julie Rendelman is a dedicated criminal defense attorney with an office in Midtown Manhattan. She has been a practicing lawyer as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney  for over 20 years and offers free consultations. Call 212-951-1232 to speak with Ms. Rendelman about your case or to learn more, visit