When you’ve been arrested in or around Chester County, Pennsylvania, your first priority should be retaining a criminal defense attorney. Depending on the details of your case, you could be facing incarceration, fines, probation, and other consequences, so you put your rights at risk by attempting to go it alone. However, even when you decide to work with a lawyer, you may not know where to begin with finding one. You may need some help doing research, and having a set of questions to ask will help you make the right choice.
At the Skinner Law Firm, we are happy to provide the answers you’re looking for. We have extensive experience representing clients throughout Chester County, along with the dedication to obtain the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us at (610) 436-1410 to set up a free consultation today.
We’re prepared to respond to the important questions you need to ask when hiring legal counsel:
1. How long have you been practicing criminal law? While there is no absolute threshold, you want to make sure your attorney has sufficient experience defending clients in criminal matters. Certain skills can only be gained by spending significant time in criminal court and negotiating with prosecutors.
2. What percentage of your case load relates to criminal matters? Many attorneys handle a wide range of legal services, so make sure your lawyer dedicates a significant proportion of practice to the specific area of criminal law. For instance, you shouldn’t hire a personal injury lawyer if you’re charged with a DUI.
3. Do you focus on a particular area within the field of criminal law? As a follow up, dig a little deeper by asking if there’s a specific subset the attorney practices under the umbrella of criminal law. If a criminal defense lawyer mostly represents clients in DUI cases, they may not be a good candidate to defend against white collar crime charges.
4. Are you a member of any professional associations or organizations? Attorneys are often quite active in membership-based associations that focus on the laws and developments in different practice areas. Membership in a criminal law organization indicates dedication to the field and a commitment to staying abreast of current legal issues.
5. What’s your general approach to resolving criminal charges? Every situation is different, but your criminal defense attorney should be able to outline a strategy after hearing the basics of the case. You’ll want to know about options for plea bargaining, attacking weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, and presenting defenses to the charges.
6. How often do your criminal cases go to trial? A lawyer may have reason to tell you a plea agreement is in your best interests, but some will resort to this tactic as a way to avoid going to trial. If you learn that an attorney resolves cases through plea bargaining most of the time, the person may not be a good fit when you believe you have a solid defense.
7. Do you handle both state and federal law cases? There are two separate court systems under state and federal law, along with different procedures and rules. Make sure the candidate has experience in both scenarios.
8. How long will my criminal case take? An exact answer may not be possible or practical, since the duration will depend upon many different factors. Still, your criminal defense attorney should at least give you a timeline of different stages in the criminal process. With this information, you can establish a ballpark figure of how long your case will be pending.
9. Who will be the main point of contact and communications? It’s common for lawyers to rely on administrative and support staff for certain tasks, so you’ll have to decide whether you’re comfortable with the arrangement. Having a team working on your case may offer an advantage in terms of fees, which tend to be lower when an attorney delegates appropriate tasks to paralegals. However, you may be more comfortable when you’re always dealing directly with your lawyer.
10. How do you handle billing for criminal cases? Lawyers usually bill for their legal services in one of two ways in criminal cases: Hourly or flat fee. A single rate is usually appropriate for summary offenses and minor misdemeanors, which can be resolved by agreement or a brief trial. For more serious offenses, felonies, and cases where an attorney may be investing considerable time for trial, the billing arrangement will usually be hourly.
Ultimately, you should make sure that the answers to these questions make you feel confident and comfortable that you’re putting your case in the right hands. Your life, future, and freedoms are at stake, so you want to retain a criminal defense attorney who possesses the skills necessary to protect them.
To learn more about our legal services, please contact Skinner Law Firm today by calling (610) 436-1410 or visiting us online. We can set up a free consultation at our West Chester, PA office to answer the above questions and many more.