Choosing a Criminal Defense Lawyer in NYC
If you’ve been arrested, or you’re being investigated, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx or Staten Island, no decision is more important than properly choosing a criminal defense lawyer in NYC.
Your goal should be to choose the best felony attorney or misdemeanor attorney you can afford. If you underpay, expect to get what you pay for.
Rule No. 1: Speak with Someone Who’s Been in a Similar Situation.
If someone you trust has been accused of a crime, ask who the lawyer was. Did the lawyer get a good result? Did the lawyer fully explain the law? Did the lawyer patiently answer questions? Did the lawyer promptly return phone calls? Did the lawyer try to force a plea down your friend’s throat, or did the lawyer respect your friend’s wishes? Did the lawyer care about getting the best result possible?
If your friend enthusiastically recommends someone, schedule a consultation with that New York City criminal defense lawyer right away.
Rule No. 2: Hire Experience.
You don’t want your criminal defense lawyer to be learning on the job. Hire a criminal defense lawyer in New York City who’s done a lot of criminal trials.
Don’t hire your real estate lawyer to defend you against assault charges. (And don’t hire your criminal defense lawyer to sell your house.) When choosing a felony attorney or a misdemeanor attorney in NYC, hire a criminal defense lawyer who has a lot of experience defending people who are accused of crimes.
Rule No. 3: Run Away from Criminal Defense Lawyers Who Guarantee Results.
No lawyer can guarantee an acquittal. A criminal defense lawyer who tells you otherwise is lying. Runaway: that lawyer is only interested in your money. Consult the next lawyer on your list.
Rule No. 4: Don’t Hunt for Bargains.
Fighting misdemeanor or felony charges is one of the greatest challenges you will ever face.
If you’re charged with a misdemeanor in New York City that won’t be going to trial, your attorney’s fee most likely will be within your means. However, if you’re accused of a felony in New York City, the cost will be greater. If your case will be going to trial, the cost of hiring a New York City misdemeanor or felony attorney will be greater still; greater for a felony trial than for a misdemeanor trial; and greater for a class B or C felony than for a class D or E felony.
Keep in mind that whatever fee one New York City criminal defense lawyer offers, you will be able to find a second lawyer who will charge you less, and a third lawyer who will charge you less than the second. Eventually, you might find a felony lawyer or misdemeanor lawyer who will defend you for a pack of chewing gum. Remember, though, the goal isn’t to find the least-expensive lawyer. The goal is to find the best criminal defense lawyer you can afford in the New York City Area.
Because choosing a criminal defense lawyer in NYC is such an important decision, consider not limiting yourself to spending only your savings. You might need to charge your credit card; you might have to borrow from family and friends. Your investment in a lawyer to defend you is that important. Like other important investments (such as buying a home or paying for college) you might need to borrow if you don’t have enough cash on hand now.
Don’t go bargain hunting. You shouldn’t be looking for cheap. Search for the best criminal defense lawyer in New York you can possibly afford.
Rule No. 5: If You Can’t Afford to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer, Work Closely with Your Court-Appointed Lawyer.
If you can’t afford a criminal defense lawyer in New York City, the Court will assign a lawyer to represent you. Don't assume your lawyer's any good because you personally are not paying the lawyer. In every criminal courthouse, some of the very best lawyers work for Legal Aid, for other non-profit defender organizations, and for the Assigned Counsel Plan.
By the same token, don’t assume your lawyer’s Clarence Darrow because you’re paying out-of-pocket. There are plenty of horrendous lawyers who will happily take your hard-earned money and do nothing for you, or worse.
A court-appointed lawyer can provide you with tremendous value. The more work that needs to be done in your case, the greater that value will be. If your case goes to trial, depending on its seriousness and complexity, your lawyer could easily spend 200 hours or more, working on your case in and out of court. Your court-appointed lawyer will be paid in full, and you will be charged nothing.
Consider that privately retained lawyers in New York City typically charge between $250 and $500 per hour. If your case goes to trial and requires 200 hours of work, a lawyer who charges $250 per hour will bill you $50,000.00; a lawyer who charges $500 per hour will bill you $100,000. Even if your lawyer cuts your bill in half, you’ll still be billed between $25,000 and $50,000.
The more you cut your New York criminal defense lawyer’s fee, the less work you are paying your lawyer to do. Some clients underpay their criminal defense lawyers by making a down payment and then failing to pay agreed-upon installments. If you underpay your New York City criminal defense lawyer, one of two things will happen: i) the lawyer will spend a lot of time working for free on your case, or ii) the lawyer will do less work than necessary to defend you. The first option isn’t fair to your lawyer. The second option isn’t fair to you.
So, if you hire a felony attorney or misdemeanor attorney in New York City, make sure you can afford to pay the lawyer enough to do the job that needs to be done. If you can’t afford to do that, try very hard to work with your court-appointed lawyer. If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer and, despite your best efforts, your relationship with your court-appointed lawyer isn’t working, ask the Court to appoint a different lawyer.
If you’re looking for a New York City criminal defense lawyer, read about how a lawyer will help you handle and deal appropriately with your case in your best interest.