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Choosing Your Champion: The Importance of Selecting the Right Defense Lawyer

Facing criminal charges is stressful, and there’s a lot at stake—even when the charge is a misdemeanor. One of the most important things you can do to reduce stress and give yourself the best chance of a favorable outcome is to hire the right criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you are arrested. To find the best criminal lawyer for you, it’s important to understand the attorney’s role in your case, how they can help you, what to look for in your lawyer, and how to gather that information.

Understanding the Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer

A criminal defense lawyer does much more than just fight the charges against you in court, there are many ways that an attorney can benefit you. 

What are the Advantages of Hiring a Defense Attorney?

When you hire a criminal defense lawyer, the attorney takes charge of a wide range of issues and procedures you may not even be aware of. At a high level, these include managing deadlines in your case, ensuring that proper procedures are filed, protecting your rights, filing and arguing pre-trial motions, investigating, talking to witnesses and conducting discovery, and negotiating with the prosecution. If your case goes to trial, your attorney will prepare your case for trial, subpoena witnesses, prepare exhibits, help select a jury, argue for the most beneficial possible jury instructions and try your case. 

If you’re like most people—especially those who have not been charged with a crime before—you may have been unaware of some of those steps. Even if you have general knowledge of the process, most people don’t have the substantive and procedural knowledge necessary to draft and argue motions, get evidence admitted, and otherwise move the case forward. You generally don’t get any breaks for being unrepresented. You’re still responsible for following proper procedure and making well-supported legal arguments, and a simple mistake could derail your case.

Should I Hire an Attorney if I Plan to Plead Guilty? 

In most cases, you should hire a criminal defense lawyer even if you plan to plead guilty. It’s important that you fully understand all of the direct and indirect consequences of a criminal conviction before you enter a plea. While the court will advise you of the direct consequences, no one has to tell you how the conviction may impact other areas of your life. You’ll also want to know whether there are weaknesses in your case before you plead, so you don’t plead guilty to a charge you could have beaten, or accept a harsher sentence than is necessary. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can fully advise you and assess your case for weaknesses. Even if you still choose to plead guilty, your lawyer may be able to leverage flaws in the case to get you a more favorable plea agreement. 

What Should I Consider When Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer? 

If you haven’t worked with a criminal defense lawyer in the past, you may be unsure what to look for. The process of searching the internet and trying to differentiate among attorneys can be tough. Here are some of the key considerations for choosing the right lawyer.

Experience Counts in Criminal Defense

When you consider the long list of responsibilities a criminal defense attorney has in a case, it’s clear that experience matters. That means more than just “I’ve been in practice for X years.” You want to work with a defense lawyer who has experience with all aspects of the process, who has handled cases like yours, and has a proven track record. That doesn’t necessarily mean the exact same charge, but if you’re charged with a serious felony, you won’t want to go with a lawyer who has handled only misdemeanors and low-level felony cases. And, you’ll want an attorney who has criminal trial experience, even if you’re hoping to negotiate a plea deal. Your attorney should be prepared to pursue whatever path is best for you in your particular case.

You Must Be Able to Work Well with Your Criminal Lawyer

I’ll talk more about how to work effectively with your defense attorney a little later in this post. For now, just know that open, honest communication is a must. That means you need to trust your attorney, you need to be able to get the information you need in a way you can understand, and you need to be able to talk to your attorney about potentially uncomfortable matters. In addition to ensuring that your attorney has the right knowledge and experience and that they are willing to go to trial if that’s the right move for you, you’ll want to be sure you’re comfortable with your lawyer and that they’re listening to your concerns and explaining things in a way you can understand. 

How to Make the Most of Your Initial Consultation with a Defense Attorney

Some law firms, including ours, offer free initial consultations to people charged with crimes in and around Augusta, GA. Making the most of that consultation requires a bit of preparation, and an understanding of what you’re looking to learn. 

How to Prepare for an Initial Consultation with a Criminal Defense Attorney

Most people walk into a consultation with a lawyer expecting the lawyer to take the lead. They will, but if you want specific information or guidance, you’ll need to be prepared to raise those issues and provide the information the attorney needs to give you an educated assessment. 

It’s easy to get diverted during a discussion, especially when there’s so much at stake. So, you’ll want to write down any key questions you have or issues you want to raise before your initial consultation. Take a quick look at your list periodically during the consultation, and again before you wrap up, to make sure you’ve covered everything important. 

Questions to Ask During the Initial Consultation

The information you’ll want to gather from a defense attorney during an initial consultation falls loosely into three categories: 

  • Information about the charges against you and your case, such as the possible penalties, how Augusta courts typically handle similar charges, and whether the attorney sees any particular strengths or weaknesses in the case based on the preliminary information you provide
  • Information about the attorney’s background and experience, especially experience with cases similar to yours and their track record in the courtroom
  • Information about how you will work together, including who will be your point of contact, how often you’ll talk with the attorney, and your own sense of comfort with the attorney and your ability to communicate effectively 

If the initial consultation has gone well, you’ll come away knowing more about your case, your options, the defense lawyer’s experience, and how well you’ll be able to work together.

Handshake after Lawyer  providing legal consult business dispute service to the man at the office with justice scale and gavel hammer

Working with Your Defense Attorney: How to Make the Most of Your Partnership

Your defense attorney will take the lead in managing your criminal case. But, they can’t succeed without you. It’s critical that you follow your attorney’s advice, fully and honestly answer any questions they ask, and provide any information that they ask for promptly. Your job extends beyond responding to direct requests from your attorney and showing up to meetings and court—you’ll need to learn how to protect your rights and avoid steps that may hurt your case. 

How to Protect Yourself if You’re Involved in a Criminal Case

It’s not necessary to go into a lot of detail here, because your attorney will tell you what they need from you, what steps you should take, and what actions you should avoid. It’s up to you to take that advice seriously, and to ask questions if you’re uncertain about anything. 

However, some issues will likely arise before you’ve hired a criminal defense lawyer. For instance, one important thing you can do to protect yourself is to avoid talking about your case. One key element is to remain silent. That means not discussing your case or anything related to it with friends and family, politely declining invitations to talk with law enforcement officers or the prosecution, and avoiding posting anything about your case or the circumstances that led to your arrest on social media. 

The Sooner You Hire an Augusta Criminal Defense Lawyer, the Better

As you can see, navigating a Georgia criminal case requires a lot of knowledge, both substantive and procedural. If you’ve been charged with a crime, you’ll have many opportunities to accidentally hurt your case, and those opportunities begin when the police first make contact with you. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner from the beginning can make all the difference. 

I’ve devoted my legal career to fighting for people facing criminal charges in Georgia, and my 10+ years of experience include a wide range of cases, including winning acquittals in murder and rape trials. To learn more about how I can help, schedule your free consultation today. Just call 706-750-0501, or fill out our contact form

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