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The penalties for a criminal offense could range from a fine and a proverbial slap on the wrist to a sentence of life in prison or death. Criminal charges are serious and if you have been arrested and charged with a crime, you need an experienced attorney to help represent your best interests in court and make sure your rights are not violated.

Hiring criminal defense lawyers is something that you may not have a lot of experience with, but is a very important decision.

Read on for our tips on what to look for in your Tampa defense attorney. If you are in need of an attorney, visit Hanlon Law for a review of your case.

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1. References and Reviews

Most people don’t go to a new restaurant without first reading the reviews, so why would a defense attorney be any different? Not only should you ask those that you know for references, do your own research as well. Read their online reviews (both positive and negative), read testimonials on their website, and decide for yourself how effective they seem and whether what former clients think of them will work with what you are looking for.

You can also check your state’s bar association to find any grievances or disciplinary actions they have faced. You’ll also want to make sure they are in good standing with the bar in your state.

2. Experience

Do you really want someone fresh out of law school handling your case when the penalties have the potential to be life-changing? Probably not.

When considering a defense attorney, check into their experience. How long have they been practicing? How many defendants have they served? Have they handled cases similar to yours?

If you are charged with a drug offense but a potential attorney only has experience with assault cases, you may want to consider a different attorney. You might also want to learn more about what types of plea bargains they have been able to negotiate for their clients, particularly if you are guilty of the crime you are being accused of.

3. Communication

How good of a communicator is your attorney? This is important as you will want them to keep you informed as the case progresses but also because they need to effectively communicate with the judge, prosecutor, and other court personnel as they are handling your case.

Most attorneys will provide a free case evaluation or consultation where you can ask them questions about their experience and other important information. Pay attention to how they communicate here. Do you feel that they are effectively communicating with you and will be able to do so in court?

You will also want to know how often they will update you on the progress of the case and how. If your attorney prefers to communicate via text message or email, make sure you are okay with that. If you prefer to get someone on the phone regularly, you may need to make sure that is something they are okay with or pick a different attorney.

4. Cost

Criminal cases can be very costly, especially if you hire a very experienced defense attorney. If your charges could potentially result in a lengthy prison sentence, this cost is justified. Most lawyers will bill by the hour and require a retainer to retain their services.

You may wish to compare a few different lawyers and their experience and rates to figure out what you can afford and what is reasonable.

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5. Reputation

Do some research and read about the local reputation your attorney has. Are they known as a strong advocate for their clients? Or is their reputation for not providing adequate representation?

If you know anyone in the legal field, it’s a good idea to ask them about the reputation of any attorney you are considering. Also, remember that your attorney will need to have good relationships with the judge and prosecutor to negotiate any potential plea deals. If they have a good reputation among the courthouse staff, you may benefit, versus hiring an attorney with whom no one likes to work with.

6. Familiarity With Your Location

While it might be tempting to hire a high-profile attorney from out of town if you have the means to do it, you might want to reconsider this. Attorneys who are local to your area know the police, judges, prosecutors, and other courthouse officials. They work with them on a regular basis and know how things work in your area.

Because of this, they tend to have relationships with those who can help your case and have a better reputation than someone coming from out of town. Consider their familiarity with the area when deciding on which attorney to retain.

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7. Your Instincts

Finally, one of the most important things to consider are your instincts. Go with your gut. If you meet with a potential attorney and they don’t feel like someone you trust with your life, then don’t hire them.

On the contrary, if they feel like someone who is going to look out for your best interests, do everything they can to defend you in court, and make sure that you get a fair outcome, then hire them.

Hiring Criminal Defense Lawyers Who Will Work For You

Hiring criminal defense lawyers is a big decision. Choose wrong and you could face a much longer sentence than if you had a more experienced or respected defense attorney. Using these tips, you can find someone who is willing to work for you and has your best interests in mind.

They are not only experienced and well-respected in the legal community, but also have many satisfied clients.