Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer


By H. Manuel Hernández
The decision about which lawyer  to hire is probably the most important decisions a person facing criminal charges has to make.  An individual accused of any crime, but particularly a serious crime is going through one of the most difficult periods of their life; they are scared, angry, frustrated, and almost always confused about the criminal process, which can seem complicated and daunting.  In many ways, criminal defense lawyers are like Oncologists in the medical profession.  Nobody wants to find out they have Cancer and that they need to see an Oncologist, but if that day comes, you want to get the best one you can possibly find. The same is true about criminal defense lawyers.
A person who needs to hire a criminal defense lawyer should seek an experienced attorney with whom they are personally comfortable.  They should not be afraid to speak to several lawyers before deciding which one to hire.  The lawyer they hire should be clear about exactly what the legal fees (the money paid to the attorney for his or her services)  are going to be, how the legal fees are to be paid, what the attorney will be doing in exchange for the legal fees, what type of expenses the client can anticipate (such as separate costs for private investigators, court reporter services, copying of documents, travel costs if applicable, etc). and any additional legal fees not be included in the initial retainer fee, such as a trial fee if the case is not resolved by dismissal or a guilty plea.  The fee agreement should also be clear when the attorney's services are concluded.  For example, in most criminal cases, an attorney hired to represent someone after they have been arrested and charged usually charge a fee to represent the person through the trial, and if necessary, through the sentencing.  However, there may be an additional fee if the case is not resolved before trial and the attorney must take the case to trial.  There is almost always an additional fees for any appeal that may become necessary.    

The client should insist that there be a written fee agreement setting out exactly what the client is to pay and when the payments are to be made.  Most attorneys will work with a client regarding the payments, but each attorney is different.  Some take payment plans, and some do not.  Some insist on payment in full at the signing of the fee agreement, others will work with a client if they cannot pay the entire fee immediately. The client needs to know what he or she is agreeing to when they hire an attorney to avoid issues in the future.  The last thing anyone facing criminal charges wants is to have is a dispute with their criminal defense lawyer about money.  The lawyer should be focused 100% on what is best for the client and on resolving their criminal case, and not be distracted trying to collect their fees and getting enough expense money to properly defend the client.    
In a serious criminal case the client's reputation, livelihood, and in some cases, their very lives are at stake.  The decision about which criminal defense lawyer to hire to represent them is very often one of the most important decision the client will ever have to make.  The decision should be made with great care. 
H. Manuel Hernandez has been practicing criminal law for 32 years, the first 10 years as a federal prosecutor a, and the last 22 years as a criminal defense attorney.  He is duel Board Certified by the Florida Bar as a  Criminal Trial Specialist and a Criminal Appellate Specialist.  He is also Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy as a Criminal Trial Advocate. Mr. Hernandez has been rated "AV"  in the distinguished Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the highest rating available in this highly respected legal directory relied on by attorneys when looking for other attorneys to refer cases to or to work with in different areas of the law.   

For more information please call the office of attorney H. Manuel Hernández, P.A. 407-682-5553   


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