Initial Consultation With a Criminal Defense Attorney or a Public Defender

A good attorney can often influence the outcome of a legal dispute. However, the skills and expertise of your attorney are, arguably, never more important than they are if you are a criminal defendant. It can be frightening and overwhelming to be arrested for a crime. You may be facing incarceration, a significant fine or both. Therefore, you want to make sure that you find the right attorney to defend you.
 
The Initial Consultation: Private Defense Counsel

If you are in a position to hire a criminal defense attorney then you will likely want to interview a few attorneys before hiring one. Most attorneys will offer you a free initial consultation. This is a time to discuss the attorney’s strategies, expertise and fees as well as the facts of your case. In order to make the most of your free consultation, it is essential that you share as much information as possible with the attorney so that you both have a realistic picture of your defense.    The consultation is also a time for you to determine whether or not you are comfortable with the attorney and whether or not you trust the attorney to represent you in a criminal matter.

The initial consultation is often free because it is to the benefit of the attorney to evaluate the case before entering an attorney client relationship. If at some point during the consultation, the client decides to hire the attorney and an attorney client relationship is formed then the attorney may decide to charge the client for that portion of the meeting that took place after the attorney client relationship was formed. As with all legal fees, it is important for the client to understand exactly what the attorney will and will not be charging for and the amount of those fees.
 
Some attorneys do not offer free consultations. If you are interested in working with an attorney who does not offer a free consultation then you should ask about the fee for the consultation when you make an appointment with the firm. Also, it is important to ask whether the fee will be discounted, waived or applied to your account as a credit if you decide to retain that attorney.
 
The Initial Consultation: Public Defenders

If you are arrested then you should have been provided your Miranda rights at the time of your arrest. Those rights include the right to have an attorney appointed to you if you cannot afford to hire one. The criteria that are used to determine whether or not you can afford to hire a private attorney vary from state to state. If you think that you cannot afford an attorney then you simply request that the police provide you with a public defender and fill out a financial questionnaire.
 
If the financial questionnaire reveals that you are eligible for a public defender pursuant to the state guidelines for such an appointment then one will be provided to you. Most often, the initial consultation and all resulting attorney work will be provided to you free of charge. However, some states do have sliding fee scales that would require you to pay a percentage of the public defender’s fees depending on your income. In that case, your initial consultation may be subject to the sliding fee scale as well.
 
Finding the right criminal defense attorney to defend you is a very important decision. That decision starts with the initial consultation. So, it is important to understand the fees, if any, that are associated with the initial consultation.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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