If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it’s time to hire a San Diego criminal defense lawyer. Unfortunately, looking for a good attorney can be just as frustrating as being charged with a crime. The California Bar has 186,161 active attorneys, and thousands of them practice criminal defense. Hundreds of them may be in the San Diego area.
However, not every lawyer is equal in knowledge and skill. Like in any profession, some members are better than others. When it comes to your case, you want the best.
To find a great attorney for you, consider these factors:
Educational and Professional Background
An attorney’s qualifications aren’t entirely based on where they obtained their legal degree and the professional associations they participate in, but these can be important indicators of their skills and reputation in the legal community.
When looking to hire a San Diego criminal defense lawyer, you should ask when the attorney graduated and from where. This information is generally available on an attorney’s website, as well as on bar associations and other organizations they’re a part of. If you haven’t heard of the law school, you can look it up to see how well it ranks. Keep in mind that there are a variety of law schools and ranking systems out there. And no matter where a lawyer went to school, they had to pass the state bar, which is a difficult and strict test.
Additionally, you can contact the State Bar of California to check an attorney’s record. You’ll be able to see when they were admitted to the bar, whether they are active, and if there are any public disciplinary actions. This ensures you don’t begin to work with someone not currently licensed to practice law in the state.
What is often more important than where a lawyer went to school is their experience with criminal law. You want a defense attorney who has had experience with cases like your own. When meeting with an attorney, ask how long they’ve been a criminal defense attorney. You may also want to ask if they have any prosecutorial experience. It can be helpful to have a lawyer who understands both sides of the law.
It might worry you to work with a younger attorney, but the number of years in practice isn’t the only factor that matters. You should also ask about the lawyer’s track record during those years.
You want a criminal defense attorney who has not only worked on cases like yours but has a track record of innocent verdicts in those cases. You want a lawyer who can prove their knowledge and skills work. A great attorney can build you a strong defense and show the judge or jury the weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case.
Not every case can result in the defendant’s innocence, but the other battle is minimizing the penalties upon conviction. Ask the lawyer about how they fight to protect their client’s from maximum prison sentences and fines.
You will work with your attorney closely throughout your arrest, trial, and potentially subsequent appeals and legal issues. You need to be able to talk with and trust your lawyer. You have to feel comfortable calling them up with what might seem like a small or dumb question, but you know they’ll answer with patience and honesty.
While you can do a lot of research about an attorney online without going to an appointment, it’s crucial you schedule a consultation. Hiring a lawyer requires meeting face to face and figuring out whether that person is right for you.
Consider whether the attorney appears calm and comfortable when you meet. Do they make eye contact? Do they appear to know the law relevant to your case well? A poised and confident attorney is exactly what you want in the courtroom.
Accessibility and Communication
If you’re hiring an attorney, you want someone who is open to hearing from you and will get back to you as quickly as they can. Dealing with criminal charges is hard enough without working with an attorney who will leave you in the dark for days or weeks at a time. Ask a potential lawyer how accessible they are and how quickly they return phone calls and emails.
Talking about money can be uncomfortable but it’s a conversation you need to have before you hire an attorney. Lawyers can charge clients in different ways and will have various rates based on their experience, track record, and business expenses.
Many San Diego criminal defense lawyers charge either hourly rates or flat fees. Flat fees may apply in more straightforward situations, such as dealing with a criminal misdemeanor. However, a situation that could involve a lengthy or complicated criminal trial will likely be billed at an hourly rate. Reasonable hourly rates can be hundreds of dollars per hour. An attorney may also require a retainer, which is an initial fee to secure their services.
Be sure to ask how the attorney charges, what they charge for, and how they bill.
How A San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Jessica McElfresh is a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. She began working in the San Diego District Attorney’s Office before she even graduated from law school, building her practical knowledge of defendant’s constitutional rights and of how the criminal justice system works.
Her experience as a defense attorney has only grown more impressive since then. Give Jessica a call at (858) 756-7107 to learn more about her practice and how she can help you.