If you have been charged with any type of crime, you are going to want to hire a criminal defense attorney. This is a short list of items you should consider while you make the important decision to hire a defense attorney. Most people consider the risk of jail time or getting a criminal record too serious of a consequence to leave in the hands of an overloaded and possibly inexperienced attorney. Once you have made the decision to hire a criminal defense lawyer, it is important to make sure that you are choosing an experienced and competent professional to defend you. With the stakes so high, it is helpful to be aware of these four things that every Florida criminal defense attorney should always do.
Clearly explain the law and communicate well with their clients
One of the most frightening things that can happen to a person is being charged with a crime. Your freedom and your career are at stake and the entire process can feel confusing and intimidating. It is important to hire a Florida criminal defense attorney that is willing and able to patiently explain the process, including your rights under Florida law and the Constitutions of the State of Florida and the United States. The last thing you need is a self-important know-it-all that wants you to blindly follow their advice. At the initial consultation terms such as plea bargain, misdemeanor and felony should be thoroughly explained. When you leave the office, you should feel confident that you understand what the best and worst possibilities are for the resolution of your case. When prospective clients interview potential attorneys, one factor that is often overlooked is, how does the attorney communicate? A few questions to keep in mind are:
Does the attorney seem organized in his or her thoughts?
Does he or she seem in a rush? If you feel rushed in the consultation, then this is a good sign that down the road you are going to be rushed to make decisions about your case.
Do you get a sense that he or she will be patient in explaining the process to you?
Does the attorney bully or push you into deciding to hire him or her?
Cross-Examination of witnesses
The state of Florida's case against you is only as strong as the evidence they have. When witnesses testify for the prosecution, it is the job of a criminal defense attorney to cross-examine them to point out problems that may exist with their credibility or memory. This process starts during discovery depositions. The cross-examination process can help your attorney show that there are inconsistencies in the witness's account that makes their testimony more difficult to believe. A strong defense depends on the diligence of a Florida criminal defense attorney to prepare for and carry out thorough cross-examination of all witnesses against you. Cross examination is an art form that takes many years to perfect. As you speak with the attorney ask yourself if the attorney seems prepared and thorough enough to carryout effective cross examination of the witnesses that will appear in your case.
At some point in your case it may be the best option to seek to resolve your case. If that happens, the negotiating skills of the attorney will come into play. Does the attorney that you are considering hiring seem prepared to negotiate on your behalf? Do you think the prosecutors respect him or her?
Negotiate a Plea
If you are completely innocent of the crime that you have been charged with, it is hard to get used to the concept of considering pleading guilty to a lesser offense. The reality is that trials are risky, so if your case can be resolved without jail time or a permanent record, pleading guilty to a lesser charge might be the best strategy. Every competent criminal defense attorney knows that negotiating a plea bargain is a critical part of their representation. Experienced criminal defense attorneys know that these discussions can even lead to dismissing a case. You have the ear of the prosecutor during these talks, and sometimes they can be convinced that they lack the evidence they need to win at trial and will drop the case. There is a skill in this. You need an advocate that will push, but also a person that the prosecutor respects. It is not much of a threat to the prosecutor go to trial with an attorney that is not known as a skilled trial attorney.
The volume of cases that the attorney handles matters here also. Some attorneys handle a high volume of cases and must close cases quickly or they will be overwhelmed. In a scenario like this, an overworked attorney might not push for your best outcome because he or she simply has to get rid of your case and move on to the next one.
Pushing Hard for The Best Sentencing Option
When discussing a plea, it is important for your Florida criminal defense attorney to make sure that you are getting the best possible sentencing option under the circumstances. Sometimes it is possible to avoid jail time completely for lesser crimes by agreeing to pay a fine or perform community service. If jail time must be considered, your attorney should use all available information on your behalf, including your possible status as a first offender, a youthful offender, and family obligations to try to achieve the shortest possible term.
There is much to consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney. Take your time and interview many attorneys. The attorney that is right for you will be the obvious choice. For more on this topic, please review our article entitled: how do I know if the lawyer I'm considering hiring is a good one.
We are here for you 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so contact us anytime to discuss your case.