Many times, when people are facing criminal charges, the idea of spending large amounts of money on an attorney may be overwhelming. Individuals often want to know, “how much does a criminal lawyer cost?” or “how much does a defense attorney cost?”

If a person needs a criminal defense lawyer, the chances are that they are in a difficult situation and need assistance quickly. Facing criminal charges, whether they are minor or severe, is a very serious issue that may have very serious consequences.

An individual may be facing:

  • Jail time;
  • A criminal record;
  • Monetary fines;
  • Loss of future employment opportunities;
  • Loss of current employment; and
  • More consequences.

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is an investment in the individual’s future and the protection of their loved ones. If an individual is searching for an criminal defense attorney, they may also be called:

  • Defense attorney;
  • Felony defense attorney;
  • Public intoxication lawyer;
  • Lawyer for a misdemeanor case;
  • Lawyer for a felony case;
  • Murder lawyer;
  • Appeal lawyer;
  • Traffic lawyer;
  • Homicide lawyer;
  • Drug lawyer; and
  • Other titles based on certain specialities.

It is important to note that a criminal defendant is guaranteed the right to counsel during criminal cases. If an individual cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for them. However, if the court determines that, based on the individual’s assets and income, that they can afford an attorney, they must hire their own private attorney or represent themselves.

The cost of a criminal defense lawyer varies based on several factors. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • The severity of the charges;
  • The notoriety or experience of the lawyer;
  • The complexity of the legal issues of the case;
  • Whether the case goes to trial; and
  • Other factors.

Due to these variations, it is essential to discuss an attorney’s fees prior to hiring them for their services. There are three types of fee schedules that lawyers typically use, which include:

  • Contingency fees;
  • Flat fees; and
  • Hourly rates.

Contingency fees are not typically used in criminal cases. These types of fees are used in personal injury cases where an attorney’s pay comes from a percentage of the damages awarded by the court or the jury.

The percentage that a lawyer receives varies depending on the state and the details of the arrangement, but typically ranges from 5% to 50% of the damages award. However, in this type of arrangement, the lawyer’s payment is contingent on winning the case.

Due to the fact that all criminal cases are unique, it is not common for a criminal attorney to charge a flat fee. However, this type of fee may be used in simple cases, such as a simple misdemeanor.

A flat fee typically ranges from $1,000 to $3,000 to complete the case. This type of fee is also common in speeding ticket cases or simple moving violations.

Because of the varying nature of the criminal case process, many attorneys will not agree to a flat fee payment arrangement. Some, however, may agree to a flat fee arrangement which permits them to increase the fee if the case proceeds to trial.

The most common fee arrangement used by criminal defense attorneys is the hourly billing rate. As noted above, a flat fee may not be a dependable way to measure the various factors and costs that may be associated with representing a client who is facing criminal charges.

The cost of a criminal defense attorney who charges an hourly rate will vary depending on several factors. On average, a client can expect to pay between $150 and $700 per hour for a defense attorney’s services.

Lawyers who charge an hourly rate may also require their client to pay a retainer fee. A retainer fee is an up-front payment that is used for costs of the case. Once this amount is expended, the attorney’s hourly rate may apply or the attorney will have their client refresh the retainer.

It is important to note, however, that some highly experienced attorneys charge up to $1,000 per hour. Because of these variations in fees, it is essential to discuss the hourly rate a lawyer charges prior to hiring them for a case.

What Factors are Used in Calculating Criminal Lawyer Fees?

As previously discussed, there are many factors which determine the fees of a criminal lawyer. For example, an experienced attorney in a large city will charge more than a new attorney in a small rural town.

There are also other factors which affect the cost, including:

  • The type of representation;
  • The services to be performed; and
  • The fee arrangement.

The type of representation has a large impact on the overall cost. The more complicated the case, the more it will cost. This will also apply if a simple or routine type of case has been complicated by an aggravating factor or circumstance. Additionally, the higher the number of services the lawyer will be providing, the more the cost will be.

The fee arrangement that is used is also a major factor in the cost of the lawyer. The overall cost varies depending on whether the lawyer:

  • Bills using an hourly basis;
  • Charges a flat fee; or
  • Is on retainer and provides advice on an as-needed basis.

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;
  • The skills are required to perform the legal services; and
  • The fees which are typically charged in the same area for similar legal services by lawyers with similar skills, reputation and experience.

There are other reasons that may affect a criminal defense lawyer’s fees, which may include:

  • The defendant’s income, which determines if they are eligible for a court-appointed attorney;
  • If investigators or expert witnesses are required;
  • Additional factors related to attorney’s fees, including:
    • The seriousness of the offense;
    • The complexity of the legal issues in the case;
    • The amount of time spent by the attorney in the criminal discovery process;
    • If tasks are delegated to law clerks or paralegals;
    • Whether the case goes to trial; and
    • Whether the lawyer charges a flat fee or by the hour.

What Other Costs are Associated with Criminal Proceedings?

In criminal proceedings, there may be costs in addition to the attorney’s fees, including:

  • Court filing fees;
  • Discovery costs;
  • Expert witness fees; and
  • Other overhead fees required to complete the case.

Criminal cases, especially more complex ones, often require work by investigators and expert witnesses. Investigators may look for witnesses and verify details and information in the case. Expert witnesses, such as doctors or medical examiners, may be necessary to provide a thorough defense.

What Services do Criminal Law Attorneys Provide?

Criminal law attorneys provide many services to their clients. An experienced criminal defense attorney will guide their client through the legal process and assist them in asserting any available criminal defenses to the charges against them.

Criminal defense attorneys can help with many issues, including:

The criminal process often involves the following steps:

  • Arrest;
  • Police custody;
  • Booking into the system;
  • Posting bail, if possible;
  • Arraignment;
  • The entry of a plea, such as guilty or not guilty; and
  • A preliminary hearing.

What are the Advantages of Hiring a Criminal Lawyer?

There are many advantages to hiring a criminal lawyer. Although an individual may represent themselves, or pro se, it is not advisable. A criminal lawyer will ensure the charges are appropriate, ensure their client’s rights are protected, and advocate for the lowest possible penalty.

There are many nuances in criminal law that regular citizens would not be aware of. Having a criminal lawyer is best equipped to protect their client’s rights and ensure a fair trial.

Should I Hire a Criminal Lawyer?

It is essential to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been charged with a crime or arrested under suspicion of committing a crime. As noted above, your attorney can review your case, protect your rights, and ensure you receive a fair trial and penalty. In some cases, your attorney may be able to negotiate a reduction in charges or a plea deal with the prosecution.