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How Do Criminal Defense Lawyers Collect Legal Fees
Unlike personal injury cases, criminal lawyers are not allowed to collect their fees based upon the outcome of your criminal case. So do all criminal attorneys collect all of their fees up front?
Get a written fee agreement
Most criminal lawyers' fees are paid in full before agreeing to represent you in court. They usually base their fees on the nature and seriousness of the charges against you, with serious felonies the most expensive.
Be sure to ask for and carefully review the Fee Agreement to ensure it contains no hidden fees. Complex cases sometimes involve experts, so you will want to know their fees. If experts are used, the attorney will generally ask for an initial payment for the experts' fees based on an estimate of the time they may spend on your case.
Some attorneys may only charge you an amount through the pretrial stage. If your case does not settle, the agreement may have a provision for an additional fee to be paid for the trial. You will have to pay this regardless if your case is settled just prior to trial.
Because attorneys are expensive, many will agree to an initial payment and a written promise by you to pay a monthly amount. You may want to consider this in lieu of a credit card payment because of the high interest charged and the probability that it may take a few years to pay it off.
Collateral or note
In cases with fees totaling thousands of dollars, attorneys may ask for collateral or a promissory note. They are free to negotiate with you to take certain assets of yours if you default on your note or fail to make scheduled payments. Often, the agreement will state that you agree to a judgment against you for the balance of what you owe.
If you are indigent, you may be able to either qualify for a public defender or have a portion of your legal fees paid by the county.
Once your criminal defense lawyer collects the fees, the serious business of defending you can begin.