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How Much Does A Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost



If you're facing criminal charges, you need to find and hire a criminal defense attorney. But before you hire one, you may want to know how much a criminal attorney costs. This article explains how a criminal defense attorney charges for his time.

If you truly cannot afford an attorney, you make ask that a public defender represent you. You must show proof of your financial situation. If you do not qualify for a public defender, you need to find a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.

Generally, criminal defense lawyers bill their clients in one of two ways: Either with an hourly fee or a flat fee. As the names suggest, one has you paying the criminal attorney for every hour worked on your case; the other has you paying a single fee.

The two billing methods work differently. Let's look at each.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Who Bill By The Hour

A criminal defense attorney who bills by the hour is likely to ask for a retainer fee. This is a large lump sum from which the attorney withdraws payment as the hours accumulate. When the retainer is exhausted, the attorney may ask you to pay another retainer or may switch you to monthly billing.

Just how much a criminal attorney may charge can vary for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The complexity of your case
  • Reputation
  • Experience
  • Location
  • Office overhead

You shouldn't jump to the conclusion that an attorney with higher hourly rates will cost you more. If the attorney is experienced, has connections with the prosecutor's office and a good reputation, your criminal case may be resolved more quickly, costing you less in the long run.

Criminal Defense Attorneys Who Charge A Flat Fee

If your case is fairly routine and a criminal attorney has worked hundreds of similar cases, he may charge you a flat fee. But you should be sure to ask what is included in the flat fee and what is not.

Also, flat fees are rarely refundable. This means if you decide to switch attorneys or represent yourself, you will not get your money back.

Other Legal Expenses

No matter which billing method your criminal lawyer prefers, you are likely to receive bills for other legal expenses besides your lawyer's time. This may include:

  • Court fees
  • The use of a paralegal
  • The use of an investigator
  • Photocopying

Questions To Ask

As you go about interviewing criminal lawyers, ask these questions to get a better handle on their legal fees:

  • If you charge an hourly fee, what is your rate? Will I need to pay a retainer fee? How much is it? What happens when it is drained?
  • If you charge a flat fee, what is your rate? What does it include? What doesn't it include? Is it refundable?
  • What other expenses am I expected to pay? How much could they total?
  • What forms of payments do you accept? Do you offer payment plans?

The answers to these questions will tell you exactly how much a criminal defense attorney costs.