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Hiring a Defense Attorney
If you're facing criminal charges, hiring a defense attorney can be an important step toward getting the guidance and support you need. A criminal defense attorney can provide a number of essential services, including:
- Explaining the charges against you. Often, criminal charges are written in legal lingo. Your criminal defense lawyer can decode them so that you have a clear understanding of what crime you've been accused of.
- Explaining potential penalties. Knowing what outcomes you can expect from your case can go a long way toward easing the stress you're feeling about your future.
- Advising you on how to plead. When you've been charged with a crime, you will be asked at some point to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest to the charges. Your lawyer can help you decide which plea makes the most sense in your situation and explain the possible outcomes of each plea.
- Explaining the workings of the criminal justice system. Understanding how the criminal justice system functions provides many people with a sense of control that helps get them through their trial.
Your Right to Legal Counsel
One of the rights outlined by the Constitution is the right to legal counsel when you have been charged with a crime. This law exists because the founders of our country and those who have passed laws since understand that the law can be very complex.
You wouldn't be expected to get yourself through a major operation without help from a surgeon, and you aren't expected to get yourself through a criminal trial without help from a defense lawyer.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
Most criminal defense attorneys offer a free consultation to prospective clients. During that initial meeting, you can:
- Provide the lawyer with as much information as possible about the charges against you. The more information you share with the lawyer, the better he or she will be able to give you an idea of what to expect from your case.
- Discuss possible defense strategies. In some initial consultations, a lawyer might review possible defense tactics and explain the potential outcomes of conviction and acquittal.
- Discuss fees and other expenses. Most lawyers can explain their rates and offer an estimate of what your case would cost.
- Determine whether you feel comfortable with the lawyer. You may have to work closely with your criminal defense attorney, so it's important that you feel comfortable around him or her.
You may have to meet with more than one criminal defense attorney before choosing the one who you think will best serve your needs.
The Risks of Facing Criminal Charges without an Attorney
Some people facing criminal charges wonder if they should try to defend themselves without help from an attorney. But refusing legal counsel comes with a number of risks. Consider these issues that impact many criminal cases:
- Criminal vs. civil charges: If you don't know the difference between criminal and civil charges, you could misunderstand the severity of your situation and the potential penalties you face.
- Base fines and additions: Some charges come with minimum and maximum fines for conviction. But those numbers may not tell the whole story - certain charges may also lead to penalty assessments and other costs that can significantly increase what you owe.
- Your initial plea: An attorney can advise you whether or not plea-bargaining might make sense in your case. And if pleading not guilty makes the most sense, your attorney can help you prepare a defense strategy.
- Potential consequences: If jail time is a possibility in your criminal case, going to court without a lawyer can be very unwise. After all, if your freedom is on the line, it makes sense to have a professional on your side to help you navigate the legal system.
- Courtroom strategy and behavior: It may be helpful to think of a criminal court as a foreign country: it has its own customs, language and standards of etiquette. Lawyers are trained in all these things and can help you make sense of what goes on before a judge.
Hiring a defense attorney is often one of the most important parts of an individual's criminal defense case. If you're ready to start the process of protecting your rights, it's time to connect with a defense attorney in your state.
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