I hear this question often; what should I ask the lawyer I am considering hiring? Never be afraid to ask tough questions to prospective lawyers. It’s your hard earned money, and most of all it could be your freedom on the line. The outcome of your case could very well depend on the quality of the lawyer you hire. Here are a few suggested questions that can help you evaluate a prospective criminal defense lawyer.
1. How many felony cases have you taken to a jury trial? And…
2. How many did you win?
The answer to these questions will give you a good idea of the lawyers’ courtroom experience with juries, and what level of success they have had. An experienced and successful trial lawyer is better qualified to evaluate all of the strengths and weaknesses of a case. Felony charges are far more serious than misdemeanors, so even if your case is a misdemeanor, knowing a lawyer’s felony trial experience will highlight a lawyer’s skill and success when the stakes are the highest. Even when it comes to negotiating a favorable outcome with the prosecutor, you want a lawyer whose trial experience gives them an edge. Prosecutors know which defense lawyers can effectively challenge their cases at trial.
I’ve personally tried over 150 felony jury trials, for both the state and defense. Charges have included Murder, Aggravated Battery, Sex Crimes, Property Crimes, Drug Trafficking, and many more.
3. Are you a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer?
Less than 1% of Florida lawyers are Board Certified in the area of Criminal Trial Law. The Florida Bar allows Board Certified Lawyers to hold themselves out as “Specialists”. Why is this? Because only Board Certified Lawyers have passed a rigorous exam, tried a mandatory number of cases, been peer and judge reviewed, and have demonstrated the skill and professionalism to earn the Florida Bar’s highest designation. Lawyer websites and advertising can seem confusing and overwhelming. The Florida Bar designed Board Certification to both educate and protect the public from lawyers who might scrupulously hold themselves out as specialists, without having the real requirements to back it up.
I have been Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law since 1999.
4. How many years have you practiced law?
There is no substitute for experience. It takes years and years of practicing law to obtain the skill to handle the countless number of criminal charges under the Florida statutes.
I have 28 years experience in handling charges from Murder to trespassing and everything in-between.
5. What is your plan for my case?
A good lawyer can outline an initial plan of action for your case at your first consultation. Keep in mind, plans and tactics may change as the case progresses, but this initial consultation should give you valuable insight into whether your prospective lawyer has handled charges like yours before. It is also important at this first consultation to ask questions about the time frames and process involved with the criminal court system.
A good lawyer prides themselves in being committed to an open line of communication with the client. I always personally respond to a client’s important questions, and I never relay important answers through an assistant or associate. Remember, a case could take months, or in some situations years, to resolve. Communication must be a lawyer’s strength.
Remember, who you hire to represent you on a criminal case is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Most of us don’t make our best choices if we feel panicked or rushed. Slow down…. take a deep breath. And never be shy about asking the important questions. A bad lawyer might resent it, that’s okay because a good lawyer will welcome it.