Has someone accused you of assault? or assaulted you? At the top of your to-do list should be “search for a lawyer.” This article describes what you need to look for in an assault lawyer.
As you talk with criminal defense attorneys, you should have several aims. You need to find an attorney who:
- Has the necessary skills and experience
- Proposes a strategy you agree with
- Earns your trust
This article will discuss all of these considerations in more detail.
Before you hire a lawyer to defend you against assault charges or any other charges, you and the attorney should meet to get to know each other. The purpose of this meeting is to learn about the attorney’s background and experience, discuss your options, and, most importantly, determine whether this is the lawyer you want to hire.
Evaluating an Assault Lawyer
A prosecutor will make these accusations against you publicly in court. Not only should your lawyer be familiar with the charges brought against you, but he or she should also be familiar with the prosecutor making these charges. Ask:
- How long has the attorney been a criminal defense lawyer?
- How many cases similar to your own have he or she worked on?
- How often does the lawyer appear in the same courthouse where your case will be heard?
Does the lawyer know the prosecutor bringing the case against you? Have they worked on the same cases before? What would the prosecutor say about the criminal defense attorney?
If the lawyer practices in other areas of the law, what percentage of the lawyer’s practice is devoted to representing clients facing criminal charges?
The ideal criminal defense attorney will have represented clients accused of similar charges to your own. He or she will also have a good reputation among the people who work at the courthouse where your case will be heard.
Before an assault lawyer can offer specific advice, he or she will need to understand clearly the charges you are facing. Some attorneys will glean this information from a questionnaire you complete before the meeting. When you call to book the appointment, ask about any paperwork that should get to the lawyer before your meeting.
When you meet, don’t blurt out your version of what happened. Allow the lawyer to lead the conversation. Listen carefully to the questions asked and answer them directly. Some lawyers may want to hear what the prosecutor is accusing you of before hearing your side of the story.
If your assault lawyer is unable to get the charges against you dropped, you’re facing three options. You can plead guilty and face sentencing. You can try to plea bargain to a lesser charge, from a felony to a misdemeanor, with lighter sentencing. (For example, you could try to get your felony assault reduced to a misdemeanor assault with your attorney’s help.) Or, you can plead not guilty and take your chances with a trial. Be sure to discuss all of these options with your attorney and understand what they might mean to you.
The strategy the lawyer proposes will take into consideration the charges you face and the evidence against you. It is up to you to decide whether you believe this strategy will be worthwhile because it is you who will face the consequences of it.
As the criminal defense lawyer discusses strategy, ask yourself a few questions, such as:
- Does the lawyer have a command of this area of law?
- Does the strategy seem reasonable?
- Do you agree with it?
Trust, Confidence & Judgment
Beyond the concrete qualifications you are looking for in an attorney, you also have to consider some less obvious criteria. How do you feel about the attorney? You may be working with this lawyer for some time, and you’ll want someone you can trust who shows good judgment and offers solid advice.
As you are talking with a criminal lawyer at the first meeting, ask yourself a few questions to gauge your feelings, such as:
- Does the lawyer seem patient with your questions?
- Does the lawyer explain terms you don’t understand?
- Do you feel that your questions are being answered?
- How do you feel about the strategy the lawyer is recommending for you?
If this is your first time navigating the legal system, it’s important your lawyer is patient with you, taking time to explain how the system works. If you have questions, you want your attorney to be open in answering them. And most importantly, you want to have confidence in the strategy your lawyer is proposing.
After your meeting, it’s time to decide whether you want to hire this lawyer. So, ask yourself if the attorney has:
- The experience you need
- A strategy you like
- Fees and expenses that are understandable and fair
- Earned your trust and confidence
If the lawyer has all these attributes, then you have found the right assault lawyer to help you with the criminal charges you are facing.