When facing the unthinkable, choosing correctly can make all the difference.
An arrest or indictment can be a frightening experience. The decisions you make will affect your freedom, your family and your financial well-being. One of the most important choices is finding the right criminal defense attorney and experience clearly matters. Experience alone is not enough. Reputation, preparation, attention to detail and access to expert witnesses are all critical to successful criminal defense representation.
Paramount is the relationship built between you and your attorney. It is a partnership and as he or she advocates on your behalf, working together is the best way to achieve the optimal outcome to the case. This is true for both federal and state criminal defense matters, including grand jury investigations, and at the trial or appellate levels. Whether charged with a white collar crime, drug offense, fraud or serious violent crimes, such as murder, sex offenses or aggravated assault, trust must be at the foundation the attorney/client relationship.
When consulting with clients, we are frequently asked how they should select a criminal defense attorney. Here’s our top 10 do’s and don’ts.
- Do gather and share all of your paperwork
• Complaint or Indictment
• Affidavit of Probable Cause and Search Warrant
• Bail Documents
• Any other paperwork related to the case
- Do determine a realistic budget for your representation – Ask yourself, what can you afford? You get what you pay for and no quality representation will be inexpensive.
- Do research the attorney in terms of background and reputation
• Education – Where did he or she go to law school, and more importantly, when?
• Specialization – Does the attorney limit his or her practice to defending criminal matters or is he or she a generalist who also handles personal injury, divorce, wills, etc.? Ask yourself, “would I go to my primary care physician for a heart transplant?”
- Do inquire about the attorney’s experience
• Longevity – How long has the attorney been practicing criminal defense ~ 5 years?10 years? 25 years? If that answer is not easily found on a firm’s website, it is possible that number may be minimal.
• Sample representation – Has the attorney handled similar cases? At the same time, remember, your case is unique and has its own set of facts.
- Do check the state’s Disciplinary Board website – This online resource will show if the attorney is currently being investigated or has been subject to recent or past discipline.
- Don’t rely only on internet searches – Claims found on attorney websites are not monitored nor vetted. A newly admitted lawyer with no trial experience may have a beautiful website, yet has never tried a case.
- Don’t make a decision based on a couple of bad reviews – In matters of criminal defense, one or two dissatisfied clients is a very small percentage for an attorney that has practiced for 30 years and represented several thousand clients. People often have unrealistic expectations or are not fully informed.
- Don’t discuss your case with anyone other than an attorney. This includes other inmates if you or your loved one is in custody. The attorney-client privilege exists for a reason.
- Don’t set the bar too high – It is unlikely that your matter will be resolved at the first meeting. Attorneys may have little or no substantive information about your case other than the charges. Even if you have provided it, he or she needs time and information to put the defense together.
- Don’t accept an attorney’s guarantee – If the lawyer you are about to hire promises a guaranteed outcome, take your paperwork and go elsewhere. No attorney can, and no honest criminal defense attorney would, guarantee a particular result.
At Neff & Sedacca, P.C., we encourage prospective clients to research their options and welcome inquiries about our experience. Building your trust is an important first step and one that goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to providing strategically-sound, aggressive defense for our clients. If you have been accused of a crime or have questions regarding your rights in criminal legal matters, you should seek experienced legal counsel. To schedule a confidential consultation with the attorneys at Neff & Sedacca, P.C., contact the firm by phone at 215-563-9800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.