Facing criminal charges can be a terrifying possibility. Not only with respect to having your freedom and reputation on the line but also simply because so many people are unfamiliar with the inner working of the criminal justice system.
Your ability to have legal counsel represent you in court is something guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and it’s a right you should exercise when facing criminal charges.
So how do you know where to even begin hiring a Texas criminal defense attorney? Here are a few quick tips to help you get started.
Do You Really Need a Lawyer?
If you’re being charged with a lower-level crime, such as a misdemeanor, do you really need an attorney? The answer is that yes, you should still get an attorney.
Even a conviction for a misdemeanor crime can have a lasting impact on your life long after the court case has adjourned.
Having an attorney on your side can help to ensure your rights are protected and maybe even a more favorable outcome comes to pass should you go in front of a jury.
Recommendations and Research
If you have a friend or family member who can recommend a criminal attorney they’ve used and liked in the past, then that may be a good avenue to explore to find the right attorney for you. Don’t, however, let that replace your vetting process.
Beyond that, you should look for an attorney that has experience with the types of cases that are most similar to yours.
You can check with the State Bar Association or the website AVVO to find attorneys that specialize in the area of criminal law you need.
You must ensure that the attorney you’re considering is not only experienced in criminal law but actively practices in court as well!
Schedule a Consultation
Once you find an attorney that seems promising, then you should set up a consultation. At this point you know they have the experience you want, but this is your opportunity to understand if you can develop a relationship with this person as they help you to navigate your case.
Do you feel as if they’re listening to you? Do they have effective communication skills? Will they be present in court at every appearance? Get a feel for the attorney and you’ll know if they’re the right person to have by your side or not.
Think About Expenses
Attorneys normally ask for retainers upfront from their services but be aware that may not be all you need to pay. You’ll also need to find out what that fee covers and what it doesn’t cover.
For example, the retainer may only cover the period from when you are arraigned in court to the preliminary hearing. After that, you may need to pay an additional retainer for the period of the preliminary hearing to the trial.
Make sure you understand the attorney’s fee structure and what expenses may look like as your case moves forward.
Check The Lawyer’s Testimonials
If this attorney is new to you and no one you know has used them before, then ask for testimonials. This can provide a lot of information for you about what their past and present clients think of their job performance. Reviews should be easy to find and they may even have some on their website you can read.
Is Your Attorney Local?
Beyond their criminal case expertise, it’s important to find out if the attorney you want to use has experience in the jurisdiction in which your case will play out. Attorney’s that practice in local courts have established connections and relationships that are helpful.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.