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Whether you are charged with a relatively low-level misdemeanor property crime, like theft or graffiti, or one of the most serious felonies in the book, like murder or rape, choosing a criminal defense attorney may well be the most significant decision you make in your life, so it’s important not to choose poorly.
Fortunately, by knowing what to ask during the first meeting with a prospective criminal defense lawyer, the choice is a lot easier. Just be sure you discover this information before you sign anything on the dotted line.
How many cases have you handled in X county?
A doctor is a doctor, right? Not necessarily. If you have plantar fasciitis (flat feet), then you need to see a podiatrist and not a proctologist, even though both these people are doctors and they may have the same amount of experience. Specifically, if children have plantar fasciitis, then they need to see a pediatric podiatrist, and these niche professionals are not easy to find.
Just like doctors, attorneys usually focus on a particular area of practice. And just like a proctologist probably cannot make your foot better, the family lawyer who handles wills and estates is probably not the person to handle your criminal case.
There’s more. An outstanding criminal defense attorney in New Jersey may not be authorized to practice in New York. Similarly, a top defense attorney in Richmond County (Staten Island) may be unfamiliar with the process in Queens County, mostly because many procedural rules are unwritten. Furthermore, an attorney with an office in St. George will have a much harder time working on a case from Jackson Heights.
How many cases have you tried?
Don’t panic if the attorney has only tried a handful of criminal cases, because nearly all criminal matters (upwards of 90 percent by most counts) are resolved during pretrial negotiations. These deals nearly always involve a lesser sentence and/or a reduced charge, and as the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But if the attorney has zero trial experience, then that’s a red flag that the lawyer is in what some prosecutors call “the plea closet.” In other words, the lawyer is not an aggressive advocate who is ready to challenge the state’s evidence. That is not the kind of fighter you want.
By the way, cases tried as a former prosecutor do not count for purposes of this inquiry, although they do mean a great deal in terms of experience.
For a free consultation with an aggressive criminal defense attorney in New York, contact Merchant Law Group, LLP. Call us today at 212-658-1455.