You’ve been arrested or charged with a crime. Your mailbox is stuffed with attorney advertisements and a google search for “criminal defense attorney” yielded thousands of results. How do you sort through the ads and find the right attorney for you?

Here are some things to consider:

Board Certified. First look for an attorney who is a Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist. This means that the attorney has put in the extra work to become an expert in a certain area of law. In addition to being a board certified criminal trial attorney, I serve on the Florida Bar committee that oversees applicants who are seeking to become Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law.

Experience. Consider the experience level of the attorney. Although the amount of time that the attorney has been practicing is important, it doesn’t always capture the entire picture. I would want to know the amount of recent criminal cases that the attorney has handled, and the outcome of the cases. The attorney should be able to easily answer this question.

Location. Relationships and reputation matter. Knowing the local rules is important. Hiring an attorney from outside the area might not be the best idea. You should ask if the attorney regularly practices in front of the Judge, and with the prosecutors who will handle your case. You are at a disadvantage when your attorney doesn’t have a good reputation with the people who will control your case.

Availability. Being charged with a crime is life changing and stressful. You will have many questions and the attorney you choose should be available to answer them. I am available to my clients 24/7. When a client has a question, I am the one to answer it. I handle every aspect of your case personally and I am available to answer any question. Having a lawyer who is available to you is critical.

Reviews. Most people that I know wouldn’t go to a new restaurant without reading the reviews. Your attorney should have many thorough and recent reviews.

Cost. You get what you pay for. If the fee is low you might be getting an attorney who is handling a high volume of cases, or worse, an attorney who has little experience. Although a high fee isn’t always a sign of better service, it is a mistake to hire an attorney based on low cost alone.

I find that some people spend more time shopping for a new computer than they do interviewing and comparing attorneys. The decision that you make on which advocate you will have by your side in this important time will have lasting consequences. Do your homework and make an informed choice.