When you are accused of a crime, it can be very scary. You may have a lot of questions. Hiring the right attorney can be just as stressful. Below is a guide to help you choose the right attorney.

1) A Former Public Defender
Look for a private attorney that used to be a Public Defender. Public Defenders are court appointed criminal defense lawyers for people that cannot afford representation. Public Defenders are highly experienced defense attorneys that carry a large caseload. Because of this, they have seen almost every type of case. Also, they are in court everyday, so many of them have good relationships with District Attorneys and judges, which helps with offers and negotiations.

Why not just get a public defender then? First, you have to qualify financially for a Public Defender. When you go to court, you will have to fill out a financial evaluation, which the public defender and judge will review. Not everyone qualifies. Second, because Public Defenders carry a large caseload, with a large amount of clients, they often do not have time to give each client the personalized attention they need. Finally, a Public Defender is not appointed until your arraignment date. Often times, your arraignment date is scheduled months after your arrest date. There are many things that can be done on your case before the arraignment, and even before the DA files a case against you, to help minimize consequences and even get the case dismissed, none of which you can do with a Public Defender. For example – scheduling an office conference with the District Attorney, payment of alleged damages, getting video surveillance before it is deleted, scheduling a DMV hearing.

Because of this, the best attorney to hire is a private attorney that used to be a Public Defender because you will get a highly trained attorney with extensive experience in criminal defense, along with the personalized attention that you needed to help minimize an already stressful situation.

2) Specialty Experience
Some attorneys practice many different types of law and some attorneys specialize in only one type of law (ie criminal law, family law, immigration law, personal injury, etc). When attorneys focus on one area, they acquire more experience and better knowledge of the law in that area. You do not want a jack of all trades. It is better to hire an attorney that specializes in the case you are hiring him or her for. If you are accused of a crime, it is better to hire an attorney that only handles criminal cases. That attorney devotes all of his or her time to criminal law and is more likely to have had experience in a case similar to yours providing you with the best representation.

3) Access
Another important thing to look for when hiring a criminal defense attorney is access. When you call the attorney’s office, are you able to speak directly to the attorney or do you only get their secretary, assistant, or receptionist? It is important to speak directly to the attorney you are hiring so that you can discuss your case, your expectations and your attorney’s expectations. Like any service, you want to know what you are getting before you pay for it.

4) The Good and the Bad.
It is important to hire an attorney that is honest and straightforward with you and is willing to tell you the good and the bad aspects of your case. Do not always assume that the attorney that tells you what you want to hear is going to be the best attorney for you. Unfortunately some attorneys may over promise to acquire your business and under deliver in the long run. I had a potential client charged with a DUI tell me that another lawyer he spoke to could guarantee his license will not be suspended. This is uncommon in DUIs and depends on the facts of the case, likely this guarantee was used as a marketing ploy. Always be wary of guarantees. What you want is to be fully informed of all the consequences you may face so that you are prepared when you go to court. You do not want to be blindsided.

5) Attorney’s record
Never hire an attorney that has previous misconduct.