While researching a criminal defense attorney for your matter, an important consideration may be cost and how the attorney or law firm charges for criminal cases.
Criminal defense attorneys will typically handle a case on a flat fee basis although it may be possible to have an hourly fee basis depending on the attorney and circumstances.
What a criminal attorney will charge for your case and how those charges are determined are generally based on the following:
- If your case is a misdemeanor or a felony
- The complexity of your case & the expected time that will need to be devoted to the case.
- Attorney or firm experience in handling this particular type of case
- Hourly fee x estimated number of hours worked on a case
Felony cases will typically have more court appearances, be more complex in terms of evidence and can be more difficult to negotiate with prosecutors than misdemeanor offenses.
Attorneys will make a determination of whether all the charges against a client can be handled together or not.
For example, a DUI is typically charged as a violation of both Vehicle Code 23152(a) & 23152(b). In this instance, the attorney can handle both charges together and an additional fee is not charged.
If the defendant was charged in multiple courthouses than additional fees will be required since court appearances will be required in different places.
Attorneys will make a best guess estimate of time involved in a case based on the following:
- Facts of the case.
- How reasonable or unreasonable judges in a given courthouse may be.
- Relationship with prosecutors in a given courthouse.
- An estimate of time spent analyzing and reviewing the evidence
- Circumstances of the case may require filing motions on behalf of the defendant
How Important is Experience in a Case?
Experience allows an attorney to identify the imperative facts in a criminal case. These imperative facts allow the attorney to highlight which details in the case can be beneficial and which need to be explained and how to explain them.
The advantage in charging a flat fee is that you know that you will not be charged additional fees and that the fee will not change regardless of how many hours the attorney spends on the case.
There may be other costs, however, for retaining investigators or experts in matters like a DUI or drug cases where chemical analysis and test results may need to be challenged.
In an hourly fee case, the client will pay an initial retainer and the attorney will use a trust account where the fees will be deposited.
As the attorney or firm bills for its time, the fees are drawn from the trust account with a billing statement sent to the client on a monthly basis.
When the trust account fees are near zero or approach a certain amount, the client must pay an additional amount into the account based on a negotiated amount of time to be spent on a case.
Complex matters such as financial crimes or homicide may require the retention of numerous experts to explain accounting practices or policy or to challenge police procedures such as handling of evidence, blood or breath test results, and other evidence.
Expert and investigator fees are paid separately from the legal fees and may be charged hourly as well.
If experts testify at trial, they will charge their own fee depending on how long they are in court, whether testifying or not.
Why Hire An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Vs. A General Practitioner
Criminal defense attorneys are more aware of what elements of your case may be missing key evidence, are adept at planting reasonable doubt in the minds of prosecutors and jurors and in presenting challenges and arguments that a general practitioner is less likely to pursue.
They are also more experienced in plea negotiations and in presenting alternative dispositions, which may save clients money on classes or required programs and fines.