These are some of the questions that I am asked most frequently:
1. How do I select a lawyer to represent me in a matter that has serious consequences?
b. Ask the lawyer interviewed about their experience and most importantly, if the case might have to be tried, whether the lawyer has ever tried a case and if so, how many? Make sure you ask the names of the cases, where the cases were tried and the result. Do not be taken aback by a lawyer who claims he or she was insulted by your inquiry; lawyers who have actually tried cases will have no problem answering such questions, lawyers who have not tried cases, will provide diversionary answers – remember that you should not be providing a training exercise for an inexperienced lawyer on your dollar;
c. Ask questions about fee arrangements and how the lawyer plans to staff your case; and while it is always difficult to predict the cost of litigation in advance, most lawyers that have had experience can provide estimates of the cost of litigation through its multiple phases. A misunderstanding regarding the cost of litigation is probably the most prevalent complaint one hears as to the reason for strained attorney/client relationships;
d. Most importantly, you must feel comfortable with the lawyer you select, assuming equality of training, intellect and experience. Comfort with a lawyer is extremely important when you embark on a litigation journey which is guaranteed to be at times stressful, agonizing and expensive.
e. BEWARE OF GUARANTEES. Only inexperienced or deceitful lawyers will provide a guarantee; if a lawyer does guarantee a result, have the lawyer put the guarantee in writing;
f. BEWARE OF FALSE INTERNET ADVERTISING. Some lawyers make representations about experience and cases they have handled. Do a Google check – In the immortal of the late President Ronald Regan – Trust but Verify!
2. How do I set my fees in criminal cases?
All fees are structured based on the complexity of the case and the length time anticipated the case will require in preparation, court appearances, hearings, motions and trial. Fees are structured either hourly or on a flat fee basis. All representations as to fees are presented in a written fee agreement setting forth all of the monetary costs and estimated costs as well as all of the terms and conditions of representation. Fee arrangements are fully discussed with potential clients in a candid and forthright manner. In many cases I set a flat fee structure for representation prior to trial and a trial fee.
If a case is resolved prior to trial as fully expressed in my fee agreement and in fee discussions atmy first meeting with potential clients, the trial fee is refundable. The purpose of my written fee agreement is so that there is no misunderstanding. The trial fee is always placed in my attorney client trust account as required by law. All fee agreements are carefully structured to fit each client’s matter.
3. Should I talk with a police or other law enforcement officer or investigator who wants to ask me a few questions and has told that I really did not need a lawyer?
Prisons are filled with people who spoke with police officers and federal agents who “wanted to help and get their side of the story”. Every person has a constitutional right to counsel and a right not to incriminate himself or herself.
One of the most important aspects of a criminal case occurs before a lawyer is engaged, that is when a subject of an investigation is approached by a law enforcement officer. A lawyer will know whether you are one who should speak or remain silent. Before you speak you are the master of your words, once you speak, you may well become a slave to your words.
4. I lost my case in the trial court and I want to appeal – what are my chances?
Any answer that doesn’t include the initial response of not very good would be misleading and untrue. In point of fact more than 90% of criminal convictions are upheld on appeal.
Overturning a conviction is difficult assignment for a lawyer. The cases that do get reversed on appeal are cases in which the trial judge made an error of law that compromised and violated a substantial constitutional or statutory right of a defendant and was found to be prejudicial and deprived a defendant of a fair trial.
Challenging factual findings are traditionally fruitless, particularly, since on appeal a defendant is no longer presumed innocent but rather the evidence reflected in trial transcript is looked at in a light most favorable to upholding the verdict.
Experienced criminal lawyers who have tried cases and who have extensive knowledge of constitutional and criminal law can spot legal issues which negatively affected substantive rights of a convicted defendant and if the violation is substantial rather than minor or without legal consequence, then a reversal may occur if the errors at trial are properly presented to an appellate court.
There is no substitute for an experience and competent criminal appellate lawyer.