When you’re facing criminal charges, you may feel helpless against the power of the government. You may even feel like no one is on your side. A criminal defense lawyer serves as your advisor, representative, and advocate while you fight criminal charges.

This trusted relationship requires careful consideration. Most criminal defense lawyers offer a free consultation. You should use this consultation to discuss the substance of your case and make sure your lawyer will meet your expectations for your representation.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask a criminal defense lawyer during a free consultation.

Interviewing a Lawyer

A free consultation will provide your best opportunity to interview a lawyer before you decide whether to hire them. You should use this time to gather all of the information you believe will be necessary to make a hiring decision.

Some examples of questions you can ask during a free consultation include:

What Experience Do You Have in Cases Like Mine?

While criminal defense lawyers can typically handle any criminal charge, some have prior experience that will benefit your case. 

If your charges include homicide, you might prefer to hire a criminal defense lawyer that has handled prior homicide cases. Similarly, if prosecutors have charged you with sex crimes, you will probably want to work with a lawyer that has prior experience with the defenses associated with sex crimes.

How Much Do You Charge?

Before you hire a lawyer, you need to know about their lawyer’s fees. Although indigent defendants can qualify for a public defender, many criminal defendants will hire a private criminal defense lawyer.

One of the most common disputes between lawyers and clients surrounds fees. Clients may feel like their lawyer overcharges them or does not provide enough transparency about the charges. 

During the free consultation, you should have a deep discussion about the lawyer’s fees to make sure you fully understand what that lawyer will charge for your defense.

Criminal defense lawyers cannot charge a contingent fee. Instead, most charge a flat fee or an hourly fee. If the lawyer charges a flat fee, make sure you understand what is included in your flat fee. For example, many criminal defense attorneys will charge you for hard costs to hire a private investigator or court reporter.

If the lawyer charges an hourly fee, discuss the tasks that are billed. As an example, some lawyers charge for all phone calls while other lawyers only charge for long phone calls.

How Can I Reach You?

The top dispute between lawyers and clients centers around communication. Under Ohio’s Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers must keep clients reasonably informed about the status of their cases. They must also comply with reasonable requests for information.

This means that your lawyer should provide you with contact information so that you can reasonably reach the lawyer and their staff members.

You might not receive the lawyer’s personal cell number. But you might receive an email address for the lawyer and a cell number for a paralegal or other staff member who can reach the lawyer at all times.

Discussing Your Case

The key to good representation is complete honesty with your lawyer. The truth will help your lawyer prepare a viable defense and avoid surprises.

All of your attorney-client communications will remain confidential. This allows your lawyer to listen to your version of what happened and give blunt advice. Based on this open and honest discussion, you and your lawyer can develop a strategy for your case.

Some questions to ask about your case include:

What Kinds of Outcomes Could Happen in My Case?

You need to know the worst-case and realistic-case scenarios for your charges. An experienced lawyer will know the statutory penalty for your offense(s). The lawyer will also know the sentences given to others convicted of your offense.

For example, if prosecutors have charged you with drug crimes, the lawyer would know that possession of methamphetamine could put you in prison for six to twelve months. Likewise, the lawyer would also know that judges often sentence non-violent drug offenders to probation and treatment for a first offense.

What Options Do I Have?

Fewer than 5% of criminal cases reach trial. In addition to pleading guilty or going to trial, you can try to negotiate a plea bargain or enter a pre-trial diversion program.

Plea Bargain

In a plea bargain, you plead guilty to an offense in exchange for action by the prosecution. In some cases, the prosecution recommends a sentence. In other cases, the prosecution agrees to remain silent instead of arguing for a lengthier sentence.

Plea bargains take away the risk of going to trial. Although you will have a criminal record, you have some control over the sentence you serve based on the offense to which you plead guilty.

Pre-Trial Diversion

In a pre-trial diversion program, you agree to court supervision while you enter a treatment program. If you complete the treatment program, the prosecutor will dismiss the charges against you. As a result, you would have no criminal record, other than your arrest.

Prosecutors only use pre-trial diversion programs for select offenses. During your consultation, you should discuss whether your charges are eligible for pre-trial diversion.

Discussing the Next Steps

You will probably need time to decide whether to hire a lawyer after a free consultation. But at the end of the consultation, you should discuss the next steps if you do choose to hire that specific lawyer. 

The lawyer will also need payment. You can discuss how much the lawyer needs to start on your case and how long you have to deliver payment.

Finally, discuss what you can do to help your case. The lawyer will provide advice and counsel. The lawyer will also tell you what you can or cannot discuss with others about your case.

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is an important part of fighting criminal charges. Once you hire a lawyer, you have someone on your side to help you reach a fair outcome in your case.

To learn more, call our Cincinnati criminal defense law firm at (513) 333-0014 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.