If you're facing criminal charges, you're going to want to seek legal representation. Under the Sixth Amendment, after all, you have the right to a lawyer. You shouldn't just hire any attorney to represent you, though. You should look for an experienced criminal defense attorney who will be able to give you the best defense possible. Here are three questions to help you find just such a lawyer.
How Many Criminal Defense Cases Have You Taken On?
Rather than simply asking how long a lawyer has been practicing law, you should specifically inquire about the number of criminal cases they've represented clients in. Their answer will show you not only how long they've been working as a criminal defense attorney, but it will also reveal whether they focus on this branch of law full-time or only dabble in it part-time.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer who has been representing clients for years will have taken on dozens, or even hundreds, of criminal cases. Lawyers who just graduated from law school, switched to criminal law from another branch of law or also focus on other aspects of law will only have a few criminal cases -- and they won't have as much expertise in criminal law.
What is Your Success Rate?
Criminal defense attorneys' success rates can vary greatly, depending on what types of cases they take on and where they practice. For instance, the national average for DUI acquittals is around 50 percent. In some jurisdictions, though, the conviction rate is as high as 80 or 90 percent. In other areas, it's as low as 20 to 30 percent.
Because several factors cause success rates to vary, you shouldn't just hire the attorney with the best success rate. Instead, you should use this question to learn about both how good a lawyer is and what types of cases they accept.
After you've asked several lawyers what they're success rates are, ask any of them that have an abnormally low or high rate for your area to explain why they're below or above the average. You might come across any number of scenarios, including the following:
- an attorney represents convicts who can't afford legal representation, and these cases bring the lawyer's success rate down
- a very good attorney takes on extremely challenging cases and therefore has a low success rate
- a poor attorney only takes on easy cases they know they can win and therefore has a high success rate
As each attorney explains their success rate, you'll learn more about the work they do. These conversations will help you find a criminal defense attorney who is good and takes on cases similar to yours.
What Professional Organizations Do You Belong To?
When asked this question, most criminal defense attorneys will first mention that they're in good standing with the state's bar association. You'll want a lawyer who mentions other organizations too, though.
Specifically, listen to see if any attorney mentions that their a member of the American Association of Justice (AAJ) and the state's trial lawyer association. The AAJ is a very prestigious organization that includes top attorneys. Trial lawyer associations are composed of attorneys who have trial experience -- and you'll want someone who has represented clients in court before if you need to defend yourself in front of a jury.
As you interview criminal defense attorneys, keep these questions in mind. It's easy to quickly like a lawyer because of something they say. These three questions, however, will help you objectively consider each attorney you contact so you can carefully select the one that is best qualified to represent you. For more information, contact a practice like Mesenbourg & Sarratori Law Offices.