For most of us, the experience of being arrested and charged with a crime would easily rank as one of the most frightening and stressful occurrences of our life. Undoubtedly, the experience of going through our country’s criminal justice system—attending court and eventually receiving a sentence from a judge or jury—is nearly as stressful. Perhaps even more so.
That’s just one reason it is so critically important to have a qualified criminal defense attorney on your side in PA. A properly trained criminal defense attorney can protect your rights, including those you may not be aware of. Based on hard-won experience, the right criminal defense attorney in PA can advise you of the wisest path to take, whether that means accepting a plea deal or fighting your case.
So how do you find the lawyer who’s right for you? In essence, it all comes down to doing your due diligence and asking the right questions. Keep reading, and we’ll explain exactly what we mean.
Meet With Lawyers Who Practice In the Area Where You Were Arrested
There are a number of ways to find criminal defense attorneys in PA who you should consider calling for an initial consultation: word of mouth recommendations, say, or a vigorous Internet search. And you absolutely should meet with more than one lawyer in person, if only to ensure that you feel comfortable with him or her.
But no matter which lawyer you end up hiring, it will almost always be in your best interest to work with an attorney who regularly tries cases in the jurisdiction in which you were charged. Odd as it may seem, every county in Pennsylvania has its own procedures. Having an attorney who is intimately familiar with them will put you way ahead of the game. A local attorney will also be more familiar with the habits and practices of local judges than someone who generally practices outside of the area.
Hire a Straight-Shooting Criminal Defense Attorney
In order to win your business, many criminal defense attorneys will make you promises they can’t possibly keep. If any attorneys assure you that they can get your charges thrown out, or that they can guarantee you a certain plea deal, politely leave their office at once—they’re lying. The truth, of course, is that only a judge or jury can hand down a conviction or sentence, and any lawyer who tells you otherwise isn’t being honest.
So what should an attorney tell you during an initial meeting? First of all, a lawyer should ask you questions—hard questions, and lots of them—about your case, and about any prior history you may have had with the legal system. A good attorney expects you to ask questions as well (scroll down for some sample questions), so don’t hold back.
An initial meeting with an attorney is a chance for both of you to get to know each other better, and to better understand your legal situation. So don’t be afraid to answer the hard questions surrounding your arrest, and to answer them honestly. Remember, your conversation is protected under attorney-client privilege, so nothing you discuss with a lawyer can be used against you in the actual legal proceeding.
Hire an Attorney who is Respectful
Pay close attention to the way you’re treated when you start calling law firms and requesting initial consultation appointments. Does the employee who answers the phone treat you like you’re already a client? Do you receive a callback in a reasonable amount of time? And when you do eventually have your in-person consultation, do you feel rushed and unimportant, or does the attorney (or the firm’s associates) take the time to carefully explain how they might approach your case?
Simply by paying attention to the small details, you can learn a lot about how a particular lawyer works. If you feel that a lawyer you’ve just met is pressuring you into hiring him—perhaps by claiming that your situation is especially dire, and that no other criminal defense attorney will possibly be able to win your case—you can assume that you’ll experience that same sort of pressure throughout the length of your case.
Questions to Ask of Potential Criminal Defense Attorneys in PA
Because no two cases are alike, it can be difficult to know which questions to ask a lawyer during a consultation, especially since your time will be limited. The following questions should get you off to a good start.
- Have you previously handled criminal cases that were similar to mine?
- Roughly what percentage of your cases go to trial? What percentage end in plea deals?
- How long have you been specializing in criminal defense?
- What’s your percentage of “guilty” and “not guilty” verdicts?
- Does my case present you with any unique concerns?
- Will you, or another attorney or associate in your office, be handling my case?
- Can you tell me about your fees? Can you give me a rough estimate of what I may be paying?
The criminal defense attorneys at Penglase & Benson would be happy to address these questions. If you’ve been arrested and need legal representation, contact our legal team and we’ll work with you to help you through this difficult time.