Finding yourself at the receiving end of a felony charge is an extremely tough point in your life. In such difficult and strenuous times, it is crucial that you have someone who can take care of your felony charge with the utmost expertise and sensitivity. Felony charges are extremely serious matters, and such sensitive issues need to be handled with a lot of care and technique.
This is where a criminal lawyer, also sometimes referred to as a defense attorney, comes into the scene. Before we move on to how a criminal lawyer can help you or a loved one who has been charged with a felony or how to select the right criminal lawyer for yourself, let us first look into what a felony charge is and what a criminal lawyer exactly does.
What is a Felony Charge?
A felony is a crime of grave seriousness and is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or, in extreme cases, death. (Note: If a crime is potentially punishable by imprisonment for less than a year, it is referred to as a misdemeanor, and not a felony.) When the court sends you a legal notice that you are being considered a prime suspect for a felony, it is referred to as a felony charge. Felony crimes include, but are not limited to, the following crimes:
- Murder or attempt to murder
- Aggravated assault and battery
- Blackmail and extortion
- Rape and sexual assault
- Tax evasion and fraud
- Embezzlement of funds
- Grand theft
- Cyber crime
- Burglary and larceny
- Animal cruelty
- Intent to distribute illegal drugs
Before we talk about what a criminal lawyer can do to handle your felony charges and how to select one, let us talk a bit about what to do when you are charged with a felony.
- Use your right to remain silent.
- Stay calm during the process.
- Hire a criminal lawyer for yourself.
- Understand the depth of the charge from your lawyer.
- Be honest with your criminal lawyer.
- Write down whatever you remember and make a list of witnesses.
- Attend all court proceedings without fail.
Now that we have an understanding of what a felony and a felony charge is, let us look into what a criminal lawyer is and how they can help you in case you have been charged with a felony.
What is a Criminal Lawyer?
A criminal lawyer or a defense attorney is a lawyer who specializes in defense of an entity – whether an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization – who has been charged with criminal activity or felony. You can either get a criminal lawyer for yourself, or the state appoints one for you in case you are not able to afford one. These criminal lawyers who are appointed by the state for your defense are called public defenders.
The next part of this article will describe the third point on the above list – Hire a criminal lawyer for yourself.
What Can a Criminal Lawyer Do For You?
You might think about defending yourself in court, but that is easier said than done. It is always wise to put the matter in the hands of a criminal lawyer. A criminal lawyer can either be appointed by the state for you, or you may decide to hire one for yourself. A criminal lawyer has several job roles and can help you in diverse ways depending on the real scenario of your felony charge.
Here are several ways a criminal lawyer can help you and ease things for you once you are charged with a felony:
Give you a reality check – Sometimes, when you are charged with a felony, it can be difficult to understand the depth of the seriousness of the situation. You may take it too lightly or not understand the repercussions of making careless comments. A well-experienced criminal lawyer can help you get a reality check of exactly how bad the situation is and how they can help you proceed further with minimal damage.
Help you understand all costs involved in the case – A criminal lawyer can help you understand all the costs associated with your felony case. You might need to pay a lot for bail or to the victim of your case if they are suing you for money. A criminal lawyer also helps you understand all hidden costs. They can help you understand the entire cost of hiring them for the felony case as well.
Navigate your case to justice – If you are not guilty, a criminal lawyer will help you provide key witnesses and proof in an elegant manner to get you justice. A criminal lawyer will also defend your case against the prosecutor if they try and pin a felony on you that you haven’t committed. Criminal lawyers can easily tackle all false charges thrown at you and help answer any questions that are asked to you during the proceedings.
Work with you on a plea bargain and a good sentencing program – If you are found guilty of a felony, a well-experienced criminal lawyer can work with you to prepare a good plea bargain to reduce your sentence. A criminal lawyer can also help you in requesting a good sentencing program. For example, if you are charged with the intent to distribute illegal drugs, you can split your sentence between jail time and rehabilitation.
Prepare witnesses and statements for your case in the court – You cannot ask a witness to testify in court without preparing them first. Witnesses are sometimes scared to be testifying in court and can get stumped if the prosecutor asks them unsuspected questions. A criminal lawyer can help witnesses prepare their statements and decide what to say in court and what to avoid. They can also help witnesses prepare for questions asked by the prosecutor.
Now that you know in what ways a good and well-experienced criminal lawyer can help you, let us look into how you should hire a criminal lawyer for yourself.
How to Hire a Criminal Lawyer
Hiring a criminal lawyer who is not passionate about helping you with your felony charge can do a lot of damage to your case. It is extremely crucial that you make an informative and sound decision about who to hire as your criminal lawyer. To help you with the same, here are a few tips on how to hire a criminal lawyer.
Look for a lawyer with actual courtroom experience in felony cases
Being charged with a felony is an incredibly serious matter. You need someone who has good experience in dealing with felony charge cases to handle your case. Hiring someone who deals in tax law cases or environmental cases will be no help here. Having someone who has a lot of experience in felony charge cases will give your case a good foundation. Your lawyer will have loads of experience in dealing with every facet of the case. Lawyers who specialize in criminal law know exactly how to deal with the prosecutor and how to prepare your case witnesses for potential questions in the courtroom. Some lawyers are even experienced in arson cases or assault and battery cases if you have been charged with them.
It is important to find someone with a good history of winning your type of case. This gives you confidence when you walk into the courtroom. You can answer questions asked by the prosecutor with ease, and since your well-experienced lawyer has already prepared you for them, you won’t be at unease or caught in the headlights when asked an unexpected question. Experienced criminal lawyers can also help you procure a good plea bargain or sentencing program in case you are charged guilty. Your case will have a solid backing when it is handled by an experienced criminal lawyer. Finding someone in the niche specialization can help you get justice easier.
Look for references on all the criminal lawyers that you are considering
A criminal lawyer cannot win every felony charge case they take up. They would have many clients that they helped well and thus got good reviews from them, but they will also have some bad reviews from clients that they could not help. It is crucial to hire a lawyer who has more good reviews than bad reviews. This will allow you to gain confidence in the lawyer and know that they have won more cases than they have lost. However, do not rely on reviews that are posted on their official website or other lawyer reviewing sites. Not all reviews on such platforms can be trusted; you need to make sure that the advice you are reading is trustworthy.
Get in touch with trusted friends and family members who can direct you to the right choice. Ask them to suggest people you could talk to who were clients of a particular lawyer. This way, you can truly judge if the lawyer helped them out well or not. These reviews are much more trustworthy and reliable than any other reviews on the web. Go through references properly and make an informed decision. You do not want to hire someone who cannot help you. It is also important to note that you should not pay attention to every reference that is available. Make sure to consult only those people you trust, and take into consideration references from only these people.
Look for a lawyer who can understand you and who you understand
A felony charge case is an extremely tiresome and frustrating matter to deal with. You will lose your cool many times and feel like everything is working against you. In times like this, you need to make sure that the person who is handling your case is extremely patient and understanding. This person is not the one who should join you in losing their cool and ruining the case even more. Your criminal lawyer is essentially your advisor, and they need to be playing on your side. Make sure that the lawyer you hire is passionate about their profession and also empathizes with you in your difficult time. If your lawyer is not able to understand your emotional wellbeing during this time, they are probably not the right choice.
Look for a lawyer who can understand your situation. Additionally, also look for one who you can understand. There is loads of technical jargon involved in the courtroom and on official papers. You will not be able to understand everything that is going on, and the confusion can be pretty frustrating. So make sure that you hire a criminal lawyer who is willing to take a good amount of time to make you understand everything. They should be able to explain jargon terms to you in simple language and also explain to you what would be the consequences (both good and bad) of doing a particular thing during the proceedings of the court. This way, you would have everything presented to you clearly without any hidden information.
Look for a criminal lawyer who can give you a good assessment of your case
It is important to look for a lawyer who is ready to give you a good and honest assessment of your case. You should not hire someone who sugarcoats things for you or does not help you understand every nuance of the case. These criminal lawyers are not working in your best interest and will care the least if you are sent to jail. Thus, looking for someone who honestly assesses the case in front of you is extremely crucial. Ask them your legal options. Ask them what course of action would they recommend – a guilty plea, a not guilty plea, a trial, a plea bargain, and so on – and ask them clear reasons why they are recommending a particular course of action and rejecting the others.
Be honest with your criminal lawyer and tell them everything you know. This will help them build a strong case for you. Ask them what would be the different steps involved and how they foresee the course of the case over the next few months. Ask them to clearly explain all future problems that they expect to creep up during the proceedings of the case. You should also ask them strong points in your case so that you can build your own idea about your case. If there are several strong points in your favor, it will give you the confidence to deal with the case more effectively. However, it is extremely important that you only be confident and not overconfident or arrogant.
Look for a criminal lawyer who can justify their legal fees
It is no secret that experienced criminal lawyers come with hefty legal fees. While some charge less compared to their colleagues, the overall fees can get a little out of hand many times. Plus, you never know how long your case will run in the court, and so, you might run out of the money you can spare very quickly. You need to make sure that the lawyer you hire is affordable by you. They need to be able to justify their legal fees, and you can judge that yourself by looking through recommendations and seeing for yourself how well they have been able to help their other clients. If there is a lawyer that you particularly like, but they are charging a bit more than they usually should, ask them what extra can they do to justify their fees.
Also, make sure to ask them questions related to whether they charge an hourly fee or do they have a flat rate. Understand clearly what is included in their flat or hourly fee and what can be included as extra charges. Also, ask them if you will need to sign a retainer agreement with your lawyer. This retainer agreement is essentially a legal paper signed by you, agreeing to use the services of your lawyer. Ask them for an estimate of all future unforeseeable and hidden fees. You need to make sure you have a strong financial stand. Make sure the retainer agreement clearly spells out all these details and also information about the billing method. Another thing to get in writing is how you can choose to terminate the contract with your lawyer.
When you are charged with a felony, you are in for a rough couple of months, and you need to make sure that you are well taken care of for that time. Make a well-informed and sound decision about who to hire for your case. Your criminal lawyer can make or break your case, and so it is crucial that you hire them with care. In the scenario that you find yourself not being able to afford a criminal lawyer privately, you can always go for the public defender. Be it a public defender or a privately hired criminal lawyer, be completely honest with your lawyer, provide them all the information that you have handy, and enable them to help you the best way that they can.