Facing criminal charges in Philadelphia is a serious matter, and avoiding unnecessary consequences requires experienced legal representation. When choosing a criminal defense lawyer, you need to choose wisely, as relying on inexperienced counsel could negatively impact your life for years to come.
So, how do you choose the right criminal defense lawyer to represent you? We recommend asking some key questions before you make your decision.
Important Questions for Choosing a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Philadelphia
Here are 10 questions to ask before you hire a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer:
Question #1: Is My Initial Consultation Free?
Some Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers offer free initial consultations, and some don’t. Here’s why we think they should:
One of the goals of your initial consultation is to decide if you want to hire the lawyer to represent you. If you’ve already paid money to sit down and talk, you will feel financially pressured to move forward—even if you don’t necessarily think the lawyer is the best choice for your case. If your initial consultation is free, the lawyer must work to convince you that he or she is capable of representing you effectively.
Question #2: How Long Have You Practiced Criminal Law?
In criminal court, experience matters. Experience is also critical when conducting investigations and engaging in plea deal negotiations. You will want to choose a highly-experienced criminal defense lawyer, and not someone who is still learning on the job.
Question #3: Do You Handle Anything Besides Criminal Cases?
For some lawyers, representing criminal defendants is just a small part of their practice. For others, it is all they do. When your future is on the line, you want to choose a lawyer who has devoted his or her career to protecting people who are in your situation.
Question #4: Do You Have Prior Experience as a Prosecutor?
Prior experience as a prosecutor provides a criminal defense lawyer with unique insights into how to resolve clients’ cases favorably. By examining clients’ cases from the government’s point of view, former prosecutors can strategically evaluate potential defenses and plea deal negotiation tactics. Only a small percentage of criminal defense lawyers are former prosecutors.
Question #5: Have You Handled My Charges Before?
Defending against marijuana possession and murder charges are two very different propositions. Defending against state charges and defending against federal charges require very different approaches as well. When choosing a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer, it is generally a good idea to choose a lawyer who has handled your charges before.
Question #6: What Were the Outcomes of Those Cases?
If the lawyer has handled cases involving your charges previously, what were the outcomes of those cases? While criminal defense lawyers cannot divulge current or past clients’ confidential information, they can discuss case outcomes that are public record. If past clients received a maximum sentence despite engaging legal representation, this generally is not a good sign. On the other hand, if past clients avoided convictions or received favorable plea deals in the face of clear evidence of guilt, then the lawyer may be a good option for your case.
Question #7: What Penalties Am I Facing?
When facing any type of criminal charge, it is important to have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the consequences involved. An experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer should be able to explain the penalties associated with your charges as well as the collateral consequences you will face if you get convicted in court.
Question #8: Can You Keep Me Out of Jail?
This is one question to which you should not expect to receive a “yes” or “no” answer. No criminal defense lawyer should ever guarantee that he or she can keep you out of jail; and, if a lawyer makes this type of guarantee, this also is not a good sign. Criminal cases are unpredictable by their nature, and it simply is not possible to guarantee a “not guilty” verdict—no matter how strongly the evidence stacks in your favor.
However, an experienced criminal defense lawyer should be able to discuss potential outcomes in light of what he or she knows about your case so far. Does the prosecution appear to have a strong case? Does it appear that you have strong defenses available? While an experienced lawyer will reserve judgment until he or she has all of the facts, you should at least be able to get preliminary answers to these types of questions based on the information you provide.
Question #9: Is it important that [event] happened?
If you have questions about specific details of your case, you should feel free to ask them. In fact, these types of questions could be critical to building your defense. For example, what if the arresting officer didn’t read your Miranda rights? What if you were abiding by the law when the police stopped you without a warrant? What if you have reason to believe you were racially profiled? If you think a detail might be important, it probably is, and you should discuss it with your criminal defense lawyer.
Question #10: What Should I Do Next?
Finally, before your initial consultation ends, you should be able to get a clear overview of your next steps. What is the process for hiring the lawyer to represent you? Once you hire the lawyer, what will he or she do to start building your defense? What role will you play in your defense as your case moves toward trial? These are all answers you need to know—and they are all answers your lawyer should be willing and able to provide.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Fishman
If you have been arrested in Philadelphia and are awaiting trial on criminal charges, it is important that you speak with a lawyer right away. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with former prosecutor and Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Brian Fishman as soon as possible, call 267-758-2228 or tell us how we can reach you online now.