Depending on your situation, it may not be necessary for you to pay for the services of a defense attorney when you are charged with a crime. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to representation by a court-appointed attorney at the government’s expense if you cannot afford a lawyer on your own and there is a possibility of incarceration with conviction.
However, if the court determines that you are capable of hiring your own lawyer, you have some important decisions to make. Hiring a defense attorney is expensive, but with the stakes being so high, it could be a worthwhile expenditure. Nevertheless, you do not want to end up hiring an attorney whom you cannot afford. Therefore, it is important to understand the costs and billing arrangements involved. Most attorneys should be willing to discuss these matters with you beforehand. Do not hire a lawyer who is not, as you are likely to receive poor service from him or her.
There are many ways that an attorney can bill a client for their services. A criminal defense attorney, like a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco, CA, will usually charge either a fixed fee or an hourly rate. A fixed fee applies to all cases of the same type that the lawyer handles. It stays the same regardless of how much time the attorney spends working on the case. A fixed fee can be good for you in that you know going into it how much the lawyer’s services are going to cost. However, you should be sure that you understand what is or is not included in the agreement before hiring.
It is more common for a defense attorney to charge an hourly rate. The rate per hour can vary based on a number of factors including geography, the complexity of the case, and the experience of the attorney. An attorney who charges an hourly rate may also ask for a retainer, which is sort of a down payment on the attorney’s services that you pay upfront. If an attorney charges by the hour, ask if he or she divides it into increments of six minutes or 15 minutes. The latter could end up costing you more money.
There will often be additional expenses that you need to pay your attorney in addition to a fixed fee or hourly rate. These include photocopying fees, travel expenses, and paralegal hourly fees. You may have to pay fees for the services of a private investigator or an expert witness if your attorney engages the services of either.
An attorney may not know exactly how much the case is going to cost beforehand. Nevertheless, it is entirely appropriate for you to ask for a ballpark figure. Most attorneys would be happy to discuss their terms and fees with you when you contact their office.
Thanks to The Morales Law Firm for their insight into the costs of hiring a criminal defense attorney.