5 Things Your Criminal Defense Attorney Should be Doing

Updated on 10/26/2023 / Under

If you're looking at jail time or expensive fines, it's a good idea to look into hiring the best criminal defense lawyer possible. You may be able to get a court-appointed attorney if your income qualifies. Simply put: the legal system is meant to make competently representing yourself in criminal trials almost impossible. Even if you know how the criminal system, everything may not work in your favor. Hiring an experienced criminal lawyer to represent you in your criminal trial is crucial.

Chicago criminal defense lawyer Alex Ktenas

While you may be tempted to represent yourself, here are five things that a skilled criminal defense attorney should be doing to help your case that you probably don't know how to do:

Make Full and Strategic Use of Discovery

Discovery is the legal mechanism of collecting physical evidence that may help exonerate you or refute the prosecutor's evidence. Surveillance videos, documents, written statements, and oral testimony can all be collected using various discovery tools such as subpoenas, depositions, and interrogatories.

Negotiate With the Judges and Prosecutors

Many criminal charges are resolved through plea bargains. In a plea bargain, criminal defendants agree to plead guilty to a lesser sentence or charge. If a plea bargain is possible for your particular case, a criminal lawyer will know how to deal with your local prosecutors, including when to negotiate for a better deal and when to advise you to take what's on the table.

Know How the Local Courts Operate

Every jurisdiction and even every courtroom has its own rules and regulations, its own judges, and its own unique culture. A Chicago criminal defense lawyer familiar with the criminal courts where you are being charged will have valuable insight into the judicial system and what needs to be done before, during, and after the resolution of your criminal case.

Figure Out Ways to Delay or Expedite Your Trial

Depending on the details of your case, you might want to hurry up and get things over with - or you may want to delay the court trial as long as possible to gather sufficient evidence or get your affairs in order. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you decide and implement a timeline that works best for you without hurting your case.

A man discussing his case with a criminal defense lawyer

Help Expunge a Previous Conviction if Possible

If you are convicted or plead to a lesser charge, a reputable criminal defense attorney can also help you clean up your criminal record through expungement. But bear in mind, this may not be an option in every situation.

No matter how minor or severe the crime, a knowledgeable criminal attorney can help you in every step of the legal process. Many criminal defense lawyers offer no-cost initial consultations so you can ask all the questions you want to before hiring one.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?

The costs of criminal defense attorneys vary because no criminal case is identical to another. There are several factors that can influence the overall costs of a criminal case, including:

  • Defendant’s Income: Your income determines whether you qualify for a court-appointed attorney, or whether you need to hire a private attorney. Each jurisdiction may have different qualifications to quantify if someone can afford to hire a private attorney. If a defendant qualifies based on their income, then the criminal court will appoint a public defender paid for by the government, as guaranteed by the Constitution;
  • Investigation and Experts: Many criminal cases have complex matters that can require expert witnesses or investigators.
    • For example, a criminal defense attorney may hire an expert in chemical testing to contest or explain the results of a blood alcohol content analysis in a drunk driving trial, or a psychologist if the offender wants to claim the defense of legal insanity. Experts and investigators require on average a retainer of $3,000 and can charge over $200/hr. Thus, based on the circumstances of your criminal charges, there may be extra fees required to form a stronger defense strategy; or 
  • Attorney’s Fees: Criminal defense lawyers don't all charge a fixed amount of money. Lawyers’ fees vary depending on several factors. Some of the more crucial factors affecting an attorney’s rate include:
    • The skill of the lawyer; 
    • The experience of the lawyer; 
    • The seriousness of the criminal charge;
    • The complexity of the legal matters in the case; 
    • The amount of time spent by the lawyer in the criminal discovery process;
    • The delegation of tasks to paralegals and law clerks;
    • Whether the case goes to court trial; and 
    • Whether the criminal defense lawyer charges a by the hour or a flat fee.

Learn More: Benefits of a Defense Lawyer Over a Public Defender

As you can see, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can make your job easier. They can also improve your odds of winning your criminal case or getting a more favorable plea bargain. Even if you qualify for a court-appointed lawyer, there's nothing preventing you from speaking with an experienced attorney to get a second opinion on your case.

However, if you're really set on representing yourself in court, you should, at the very least, hire the best criminal defense attorney possible to act as a coach during your court trial. To schedule a no-cost initial consultation, contact one of our skilled Chicago criminal defense lawyers today at 312-756-8652