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

Nobody likes to think about the possibility of being arrested. However, it is the unfortunate truth that at some point or another in our lives, many of us will make a mistake that will result in some sort of contact with law enforcement.

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Whether you are arrested or simply issued a citation, it is never a good idea to try to handle the criminal justice system alone, especially if you have no previous experience with it. Instead, the best thing you can do is reach out to a skilled, local criminal defense attorney who can help guide you through the process and try to bring your case to the best possible resolution. Below, we explore how much it might cost to hire a criminal defense attorney depending on the circumstances of your situation.

Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Help Deal with a Citation

For some minor crimes and infractions, the officer may simply issue you a citation with a court date on it and then allow you to go on your way. However, this is not a reason to simply toss aside the citation and pretend as if it were never issued.

On the contrary, you should act immediately to retain a criminal defense lawyer who can get to work reaching out to the prosecutor and trying to get the entire matter resolved in a single appearance. If you do not act on the citation and fail to show up to court because you forgot about it, you could end up facing a bench warrant for your arrest.

Because the charges resulting from a citation are typically lesser and easier to deal with than other charges, attorneys will usually offer a cheaper rate to deal with such a situation. For some issues like traffic matters, this can be in the hundreds of dollars in terms of a flat fee.

However, many retainer agreements contain a clause stating that if the matter becomes more complicated than initially anticipated, such as going to trial, you will be on the hook for more money if you wish for the lawyer to continue their representation.

Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Help with an Arrest

If you are arrested, that makes it even more urgent that you reach out to an experienced local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. After an arrest, you will typically be taken to the local police station where you will be booked and held until a bail hearing and initial appearance take place. In most states, this must occur within 72 hours at most after your booking.

It is vital that you have retained an attorney in enough time for them to prepare for and appear for you at this initial hearing, where the judge will decide if you can be released from jail, and you also may be asked to enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty.

Cost of Representation for a Typical Criminal Case

Because there are so many different types of criminal cases, and each case is unique and will involve different components, there is no one “average” amount it will cost to hire a criminal defense attorney. As noted above, for example, if you are charged with a minor infraction likely to only require a single court appearance, the retainer asked for will be relatively low. However, if you are charged with homicide and insistent on taking the case to trial, which could be a months or years long process, obviously the fee will be much higher.

“There are a number of factors that go into deciding how much to charge a client for criminal defense services, but the main one is the amount of time and effort that the attorney believes they will need to put into the case to be successful based on their past experiences,” said Lloyd Long, founding partner of Philadelphia criminal defense firm The Law Offices of Lloyd Long. “It is very context-dependent, but there are a few key factors such as the type of charge, which court the case is being heard in, and what type of outcome you are looking for that will usually have the most impact on the price point.”

For many lawyers, their prices will get higher the more serious the charge that you are facing is. They will charge a lower flat-fee for misdemeanors than felonies, and the price will also decrease depending on how the misdemeanor or felony is graded (for example, a third-degree felony will cost less to defend than first-degree felony).

However, sometimes the severity of the charge does not actually tell you a lot about how much time and effort is going to have to be put into the case. For example, if a quick plea deal is reached in a felony case, this may only require a few appearances by your attorney.

Instead, many lawyers will charge “per appearance” or have you sign a retainer agreement that states that if the matter goes further than expected, more money will be owed. If you are interested in taking your case to trial, for example, this is almost always going to cost more than if a plea deal is worked out, because trials take an extraordinary time of money, energy and time. Attorneys will also usually charge more for work in the federal courts, which is more complicated than state court work.

If You Have Been Cited or Charged with a Crime, Get in Contact with a Skilled Defense Attorney as Soon as Possible

It is always a smart idea to hire an attorney to represent you when you are facing criminal charges. While it may not be an exact figure, an experienced criminal defense attorney will usually be able to give you a ballpark price point after reviewing your case and making a judgment on how much work it will entail.

If you cannot afford the full amount, many lawyers will work with you by offering a payment plan or even a discount in some cases. By getting in touch with an attorney as soon after your arrest as possible, you give yourself the needed protection early on in your case as well as time to figure out how to make payments.

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