Special to California Business Journal.
You’ve gotten into some trouble with the law and now you need a criminal defense lawyer. If you’re broke, you may be able to have a court-appointed public defender represent you, but this is not the best choice. Your freedom is at stake, and a conviction could cost you your future. You need to get the best lawyer you can find, but how much will it cost?
Most criminal defense attorneys charge between $150 and $700 per hour, and this can quickly add up to a bill of $10,000 or more. However, when choosing which lawyer you want to go with, the last thing you should do is decide by price.
The old adage that you get what you pay for is relevant to the legal field. You might end up facing more severe legal consequences by trying to go as cheap as possible. Hiring a lawyer with a proven track record in defending cases like yours can result in your charges being dropped or your penalties lessened.
Analyzing Your Unique Situation
The main thing you’re paying for when you hire an attorney is the skill and experience to deliver the right results for you. You may also end up paying for expert witnesses whose testimony you need to clear your name.
How much you can expect to spend will depend on the circumstances of your arrest. The first step to figuring out the cost of criminal defense is to look at your particular situation. Criminal defense costs will vary significantly depending on the alleged crime and the lawyer you hire.
Lawyers that do not have a good reputation may not command a high price, but they might also not be good enough to win your case. To save money now, you might be able to find attorneys who are willing to work on a retainer basis at a discounted rate. This means you pay them all of the money up front for a set length of time.
Accepting a Plea Deal to Cut Costs
If you want to save money, you might be tempted to take a plea deal. Typically, accepting a plea deal will mean facing less severe penalties. Even so, you will still be left with a criminal record that could prevent you from finding employment in the future.
Hiring a lawyer is a better option. An attorney may be able to negotiate a better plea deal from the prosecutor or get the charges reduced or dropped altogether.
Taking it to Trial
The biggest risk in financial and legal consequences is to go to trial. Many criminal defense lawyers will make you pay an extra deposit for taking your case to trial. Going to trial will cost a lot more in time and effort since you have to go through the preparation and get expert witnesses, who are paid $350 an hour on average but may be paid much more.
The other big risk of going to trial is you might get a more severe penalty from the district attorney for challenging the case. The main reason for this is that they won’t be happy to know that they have to go through the process of litigating something that could’ve been handled by a plea deal.
Whether you hire a criminal defense lawyer or not will have a considerable impact on the outcome of your case, so it’s essential that you do your homework and research any attorney you are considering. You can click here to learn more about what you can expect from the process of defending a criminal case.