We lawyers tend to think of ourselves as indispensable when it comes to protecting your rights. That is not always the case and you may be able to handle your case on your own without any lawyer. It’s true. Not every case requires that you spend money to hire a criminal defense lawyer – whether you are in Boise, Idaho or Los Angeles, California. Charged with allowing your dog to run at large? You can probably handle that. Speeding down the highway and pulled over by ISP? May be less difficult to just pay the fine and move on.
Still – in these money-crunched times, getting a lawyer to help you through the criminal process will likely lead to a better result.
I have told the story before of a call from a man whose son was facing serious criminal charges, and like each of us, he was worried about the economic crisis. "I might just let him use the public defender this time" he said. "Money is awfully tight! Can you give me one reason why I should hire you?"
Here are three reasons to hire the very best lawyer you can if you or someone you know is ever facing criminal charges. But first, let me tell you proudly I was a public defender, that’s where I learned the ropes. And there are some great lawyers serving as public defenders, many of them top notch trial lawyers. In the Ada County Public Defenders Office, some of the "old dogs" have tried more murder cases than the average lawyer has tried DUIs, and even the "young guns" spend many more hours in court than other defense lawyers. The Federal Defenders Office here in Boise is likewise well equipped with great, caring counsel. So why hire any private counsel?
First – you may not have a choice. Public defenders are tasked to represent indigent folks facing criminal charges. Have a job? Get your own lawyer – usually. But don’t jump at that first letter in your post box advising you to "act now to protect your rights." Direct mail is no way to pick your lawyer, especially when the come on is fear. Breathe deep and take some time to investigate the lawyer who wants your business. How much experience does he or she have? Ask how many times the lawyer has faced a case like yours. The right lawyer may actually save you money. An experienced lawyer will likely have faced the same legal issues before, so he or she will spend less time looking for answers, and you may spend less money.
Second – you want a lawyer who will stand up to the prosecutors. Those folks play for keeps. The state (or federal government if you are in United States District Court) is tasked with proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, so they use every tool they have to make their case. They have unlimited money and resources, and they are not afraid to spend those taxpayer dollars to develop their case. They have detectives and experts who can find and analyze every detail. So get someone on your side who knows and respects the other side, but who is not going to run from them. Sometimes you have to stand and fight. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will do just that – fight for you.
Finally – your future may very well depend on how you handle the criminal charges you’re facing. A private lawyer simply offers more available time for your case than a public defender can ordinarily provide. Having time to spend with you, and your witnesses, and your evidence may make the difference between winning and losing. Innocent people are occasionally convicted of crimes they did not commit – and time spent now on your case will provide you the best chance of clearing your name, or limiting punishment if you are guilty. In the last year or so, we had three potential cases simply "not pursued" or "DISMISSED" because we had the time to fully investigate the charges and show the prosecutor that the evidence did not prove guilt. Without that time spent to fill in the details, those cases might have had very different results, and the clients – very different futures.
Your future is valuable enough to invest in if you are facing criminal charges. Hire the best qualified lawyer you can get, then dig in for the fight! Likely it will be the fight of your life.