If you’ve been accused of a crime, finding the right defense attorney to stand up with you can be the difference between long jail sentences and walking away free. A good defense attorney can help you navigate the court process and save you from unnecessary penalties and fines. On the other side of the coin, however, is a poor or unqualified defense attorney who may do you more harm than good.
If you’re facing a criminal charge, always seek legal advice. Even if you feel your charge is minor – – maybe you just swiped a bag of chips from the convenience store but were caught on camera and now face theft charges – – you should still seek legal advice. Particularly if you don’t hire a lawyer for theft defense, it’s important to ensure you fully understand the charges you face and the defenses you have available to you.
That’s not to say you can replace a criminal defense attorney with mere legal consultation and hope to get the same results. An attorney with experience as a lawyer for theft defense will be able to guide you through the legal process, from determining the best defense to if there’s the possibility of an advantageous plea bargain. For serious charges, it’s imperative that you have a qualified defense attorney at your side. This leads us to the first step in finding the right defense attorney: how to determine the severity of your crime.
To help you stay out of jail, follow these four steps to find the right criminal defense attorney for your case:
- Determine the severity of your charges
As mentioned above, regardless of if your charges are serious or minor, always seek legal advice before your trial. If you face a more minor offense, you may be able to proceed without a defense attorney. For serious crimes, however, going to trial alone could result in lengthy jail time or high fines. Learn about your charges to determine if they’re serious enough to warrant a defense attorney.
Crimes are generally categorized by their severity. For example, an infraction is the least severe type of crime. Traffic violations are common examples of infractions. Shoplifting, on the other hand, is considered more severe and thus categorized as a misdemeanor. The most severe crimes – – such as armed robbery and murder – – are considered felonies.
- Determine if you need a federal or state defense attorney you need
Like crimes, attorneys can be broken down into broad types: federal attorneys and state attorneys. If the law you broke was a federal law, you’ll need to hire a federal defense attorney. Cases where it was a state law that was broken, you can hire a state defense attorney.
- Find a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in your area
Once you have a clear understanding of the charges you face, you can begin looking for an attorney who specializes in your area of defense. For example, if you’ve been accused of domestic violence, seek a domestic violence defense attorney. For a DUI, find a DUI defense attorney. Likewise, you could find an attorney who specializes as a lawyer for theft defense.
To find specialized defense attorneys in your area, start by searching online. For example, if your crime is a theft and you were charged in Los Angeles, type “lawyer for theft defense Los Angeles” into a search window. If you don’t get the results you were hoping for, you could broaden your search by trying simply “criminal attorney Los Angeles CA” to search for all criminal defense attorneys in the Los Angeles area.
- Decide what qualities are important to you in an attorney
Once you have a list of potential defense attorneys, it’s time to start talking to them. Just as it’s important to find an attorney with experience in your area of defense, it’s equally important to find a defense attorney you feel comfortable with and confident in. What qualities are important to you in a defense attorney?
Some qualities to look for might include: easy and open communication, an impressive track record, experience, his or her personal ethics, level of integrity. Knowing what’s important to you will help you find the best criminal defense attorney for you.