1. Does the Attorney Specialize in Criminal Law
One of the first things we have to do when we’re looking for a criminal defense attorney is we have to acknowledge that we are looking for a criminal defense attorney. We’re not looking for just any lawyer. We’re not looking for a lawyer who does criminal defense on the side or may have handled one or two cases before.
We want someone who focuses their entire practice on criminal law. We have to realize that when we are in this situation, and we are facing criminal charges, these are often charges that are going to carry consequences across the rest of our lives. Consequences that will affect us individually will affect our loved ones and will affect future generations of our family.
We’re looking at a loss of liberty. We’re looking at a loss of time. We’re looking at the loss of our freedom. So we want somebody who knows what they’re doing.
Does their website say, Jesse Hernandez, criminal defense attorney; does their website have practice areas that list criminal defense? And then, within the criminal, does it list the specific charge that you have?
You know, not all criminal defense is the same. I don’t try a murder case the same way I would try a DWI.
Look for client reviews
These are different specialties. There are different types of evidence in them. There are different types of law within them. So find a criminal defense attorney whose website lists your specific offense.
Once you’ve done it, go to the internet; go to avvo.com; go to Google. Look for reviews on this specific criminal attorney and see if they have done criminal cases for other clients and were those clients happy with them.
Their experience in handling such cases
After that, our next line of questioning is when we come in actually to meet with this attorney, let’s just outright ask them, ma’am, sir, do you handle the offense that I’m charged with? How many times have you handled an offense like this? Have you handled them in the county that I’m being charged in? What type of results have you gotten?
We want to know who we’re dealing with. As we mentioned before, the consequences of any of these offenses will last the rest of our lives. If we hire the wrong attorney, we’re putting on our lives, our trust, and our future. In the hands of this attorney, you want one that knows criminal defense.
2. Do They Have Trial Experience
Now that you have found a criminal defense attorney who actually practices criminal defense, what should you look for next? The very next thing you’re looking for is, do they have jury trial experience. Do they actually take trials to the jury?
You may want to avoid public glare, but…
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Jesse, I don’t want to go to a jury trial. I don’t want this in the media. I don’t want my friends to see this at the court. I don’t want to risk putting this in the hands of people.
I understand, but you have to trust me on this, and here’s why. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will negotiate your case and the resolution of your case.
Prosecutors and your defense attorney are going to meet, and they’re going to negotiate. What happens in your case? Is the prosecutor going to dismiss it? Is the prosecutor going to drop the charges to something lower? Is the prosecutor going to ask for life in prison? All of these things come up in discussions between your defense attorney and the prosecutor.
Fair offer from the prosecutor
Now, why does it matter if your defense attorney tries cases? Because if you regularly practice in an area like Bear County, which is San Antonio, then you’re regularly dealing with the same prosecutors, and they know something. If you try cases, they can’t bully you.
Because if they try to bully you, you’re going to say, “I understand. Let’s let a jury decide.” And then a jury’s going to decide that case.
If you don’t try cases, the prosecutor’s going to know that, and they’re going to say, “Hey, I can make this attorney the worst off forever. And what’s he gonna do about it? Try it? Not this guy.”
It’s important that you have a defense attorney who’s going to be there right beside you, whether it’s an offer of dismissal or an offer of life in prison. And that if it’s an offer in life, in prison, or some other offer that’s ridiculous and unfair, that they’re going to try that case for you.
That keeps the prosecutors honest, so to speak. It makes them give you a fair offer. And you know what? If they’re a damn good defense attorney and they’re great in the trial, you’re going to get an even better offer from that prosecutor because they don’t want to lose that jury trial to this defense attorney who knows what he or she’s doing in a courtroom. They don’t want to take that chance.
Attorney’s reputation helps
Criminal defense attorneys who try cases get better offers for their clients, and the facts of your case don’t matter. If they have that reputation, you’re going to get a better offer and a better resolution than you would if you hired a lawyer that did not try.
So the second thing that you need to do when you’re looking for a criminal defense attorney is to find one who tries jury cases.
3. You Trust Your Attorney
So the last two things we talked about were, first, finding a criminal defense attorney who actually practices criminal defense, and second, finding a criminal defense attorney who actually tries jury trials.
The third thing is we have to find someone we trust. It sounds basic, right? And it sounds like maybe it’s not the most important thing in the world, but I promise you, as an attorney with 15 years of criminal defense experience, it’s critical. YOU HAVE TO – HAVE TO – HAVE TO TRUST the criminal attorney you hire because if I’m doing my job right, you and I are going to have some very hard conversations.
And if we’re trying trial for your life, or we’re in a situation where your future is in question, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions. And when we do that, you’re going to have to trust that the lawyer you hired is giving you the best advice and trying to do what’s right for you. It absolutely comes down to that.
You have no idea how many times I’ve seen lawyers and their clients almost come to fistfights in the courthouse because the client thinks that the lawyer is selling them out. Because they didn’t have that trust from the beginning.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you. I guarantee you, we’ll get you this specific.” Don’t trust that person. Trust the person that from the beginning is saying, “Hey, this is gonna be a hard case. I’m not gonna lie to you. This is gonna be difficult. Do I think we have an out? Yes, but it’s going to be difficult.”
Look for a lawyer that’s being honest with you. That’s what you have to trust.
I know I’ve been in this situation, and you just want to hear. “I’m gonna get you out of this situation and go back to normal.” You want to hear that, but you have to make sure that what you’re hearing is something that you trust. You have to trust your attorney because your life is on the line. And if you have any doubts about the person you’re thinking of hiring, listen to them.
Listen to those doubts.
The third most important thing you have to do when hiring a criminal defense. Is, make sure you’re hiring an attorney that you trust.