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Criminal Attorney Cost
The cost of hiring a criminal attorney depends a great deal on the nature and severity of the charges, the complexity of the case, the lawyer’s years of experience and the size of the law firm, among other factors. Fees can vary significantly in different cities, counties and states.
- A lawyer will almost always want to meet and discuss the specific circumstances of your case before quoting a fee, either an hourly rate ($100-$300) or a flat charge based on the type of case, such as $500-$1,200 for first-time drunk driving charges. However, legal costs for a complex DUI/DWI case can easily run anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000. according to MSN.com [1 ] .
- A retainer is an up-front fee you pay to hire your attorney, usually a percentage of the total case fee or the equivalent of several hours work. A lawyer working on an hourly basis deducts that hourly rate from the retainer as the work is done; when the retainer is gone, you are billed for additional payment.
- For misdemeanor charges, retainers usually start around$2,000-$4,000. In felony cases the retainers can be $5,000-$10,000. but could easily be $25,000-$50,000 or more for extremely serious charges, such as homicide or sexual assault.
- If you can’t afford to pay legal fees and you are facing criminal charges that could result in a jail or prison term of six months or more, you are legally entitled to a lawyer at no charge to you; the judge will either appoint a private attorney or assign a government public defender to represent you.
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What should be included:
- ExpertLaw.com [2 ] gives a thorough overview of choosing a criminal defense counsel, including why it can be a good idea to use the services of a court-appointed attorney or a public defender if your finances are limited.
- The American Bar Association provides detailed information on criminal law basics, the police and your rights, juvenile justice, victims’ rights, and rules on search and seizure.
- The advantage of a large law firm is that more than one attorney may work on portions of your case, but this usually means higher fees.
- Court fees or fines vary widely depending on the charges and jurisdiction, and are not included in the attorney’s fees.
- Depending on the case, fees for investigators or expert witnesses can be anywhere from $2,000-$7,500 or more, and are in addition to the lawyer’s fee.
- Attorneys charge for their time answering your questions through phone calls or e-mails, as well as for case-related expenses such as photocopies, interviews or research.
- If the charges against you are relatively minor, a fairly new attorney usually charges less per hour or per case than a more experienced lawyer.
Shopping for a criminal attorney:
- You can locate members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys by name, city or state. Or use the American Bar Association’s lawyer locator to search for local attorneys or law firms specializing in criminal cases. If you already use a business or civil attorney, ask for referrals to the best criminal firms in your area.
- A lawyer in New Jersey [3 ] lists ten questions to ask before hiring a DUI attorney. ConsumerLawPage.com gives a detailed explanation of how to choose the right lawyer for you.
- When you first meet with a lawyer to discuss your case, know the exact charges against you, your court date, your bail amount and any other facts. The more details you have, the more the attorney can quote a realistic fee.
- The attorney you hire should provide you with a written fee agreement; read it before signing it, and keep a copy for your records. Be sure you understand exactly what is covered, and what other fees and expenses you might have to pay.