In any criminal case, the accused has the right to obtain an attorney the state provides. This is commonly known as “the right to an attorney” and is guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. constitution.
It is not uncommon for criminal defendants to hire their own defense attorneys. In such cases, they will usually have to pay a fee for the attorney’s private services.
An individual might hire their own defense attorney for a variety of reasons. Avoiding potential conflicts of interest with a state-provided defense attorney is common. A defendant may be able to work with a criminal defense lawyer with whom they feel more comfortable.
What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?
You may face criminal penalties, such as fines, jail time, or both, if you are accused of a crime. Before responding to any criminal prosecution, it is best to consult an experienced attorney if you have been charged or are under arrest for suspicion of committing a crime.
A qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney will guide you through the criminal legal process and help you assert any possible criminal defenses.
In most cases, when you seek a criminal defense attorney, you have already been arrested, taken into custody, and booked. You will then be allowed to post bail before you are arraigned and read the criminal charges being brought against you. You will be asked to enter your plea at the arraignment, and if no plea bargain is reached, a preliminary hearing will be held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge you.
It is often in your best interests to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney since the entire criminal procedure can be very complex. Criminal defense lawyers typically charge hourly or flat fees, as well as court costs for defending your cases, such as expert witness fees and investigator fees.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
Since no two criminal cases are alike, the costs of criminal defense lawyers vary.
A criminal case’s overall cost can be affected by several factors, including:
- Defendant’s Income: Your income determines whether you are eligible for a court-appointed attorney or whether you need to hire your own attorney. A person’s ability to afford an attorney may vary by jurisdiction. Per the Constitution, the court will appoint a public defender if the individual qualifies based on their income;
- Investigation and Experts: As mentioned above, many criminal cases have complex issues requiring investigators or expert witnesses.
- In a DUI trial, a defense attorney might hire an expert in chemical testing to contest or explain the results of a BAC analysis or a psychologist if the defendant wishes to claim legal insanity as a defense. On average, investigators and experts charge over $300 per hour and require a $2,000 retainer. Thus, based on the particular circumstances of your criminal charges, there may be extra fees needed to form a stronger defense; or
- Attorney’s Fees: As mentioned above, criminal defense attorneys do not all cost a fixed amount of money. Several factors determine an attorney’s fees. Several factors influence an attorney’s rate, including:
- The expertise of the attorney;
- The experience of the attorney;
- The seriousness of the offense;
- The complexity of the case’s legal issues;
- The amount of time spent by the attorney in the criminal discovery process;
- Delegation of tasks to law clerks or paralegals;
- Whether the case will go to trial; and
- Whether the attorney charges a flat fee or by the hour
What Factors Are Used in Calculating Criminal Lawyer Fees?
Many factors determine the fees of a criminal lawyer, as we discussed previously. For instance, an experienced attorney in a large city will charge more than a new lawyer in a small town.
Costs are also affected by other factors, such as:
- Representation type;
- Services to be performed; and
- Fee arrangements.
The type of representation has a significant impact on the overall cost. The more complicated the case, the more it will cost. An aggravating factor or circumstance may also complicate a simple or routine case. Additionally, the more services the lawyer provides, the higher the cost.
Also, the fee arrangement is a major factor in the lawyer’s cost.
Depending on the lawyer, the overall cost will vary based on:
- Hourly billing;
- Flat fees; or
- Whether the lawyer provides advice on an as-needed basis while on retainer.
The factors that are considered when determining a lawyer’s fee may include:
- The amount of time and the effort it will take to complete the case;
- The difficulty of the case; and
- The skills required to perform the legal services;
The fees are typically charged in the same area for similar legal services by lawyers with similar skills, reputations, and experience.
What Is a Flat Fee?
There are many different ways that attorneys obtain compensation for their services, such as through hourly rates and other types of fees. The lawyer will charge a flat fee for all the services they provide throughout the case.
Many criminal defense attorneys charge flat fees rather than hourly rates. When a case is straightforward or routine, this is often the case. This is much different from personal injury cases where a contingency fee is commonly used (i.e., fees based on the outcome of the lawsuit’s damages awards).
An attorney may charge other costs besides the flat fee. Costs that may arise unexpectedly are included in this category. In a criminal case, the attorney may have to hire a private investigator to conduct additional investigations. As a result, the total bill may include the flat fee and any additional costs incurred.
Why Do Criminal Defense Lawyers Charge an Hourly Fee?
Criminal defense attorneys most commonly charge hourly fees. Often, attorneys feel that flat fee arrangements do not accurately reflect the various factors and costs involved in representing a client facing criminal charges. It is, therefore, common for accomplished and well-known attorneys to charge clients by the hour rather than by the flat rate.
Hourly billing rates will vary greatly, depending on the relative ability of the lawyer and your personal case circumstances. In most cases, you can expect to pay $150 to $700 an hour for the time of a criminal defense lawyer. Legal bills can quickly reach $10,000 to $15,000 when billed hourly.
A lawyer who works on an hourly rate may also require the payment of a retainer fee. The retainer may cover a certain amount of the lawyer’s time. When the retainer has been expended, either the hourly rate kicks in, or the attorney will have you refresh the retainer and bill their hourly rate.
Should I Hire My Own Criminal Defense Attorney?
It may be preferable for some people to hire their own criminal defense attorney if they are charged with a crime. By doing so, they can avoid conflicts of interest. Some defendants may choose an attorney based on their religion, personal outlook, or some other aspect of their background.
You may wish to hire a criminal lawyer in your area if you or a loved one is facing criminal charges. During the trial process, this can ensure that your rights are protected and represented properly.
A lawyer is especially important if you are facing trial; in some cases, a court-appointed attorney, known as a public defender, may be provided.