Choosing an attorney can be a difficult task, but it’s important that you find the best attorney for your case. This is especially true when choosing a criminal law attorney in Louisiana. Facing criminal charges can be a scary ordeal and you need someone on your side to help you get past it.
The Louisiana criminal law system can be difficult to navigate on your own. There are special rules that you must adhere to and a diverse body of law that governs criminal law. You’ve probably watched crime series where the judge will say, “If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one to you,” or something similar. This is because you need an attorney present during criminal law hearings due to the nature of the process. You don’t have to be wealthy to have an attorney present, even those with limited financial means have a right to an attorney.
Each parish in Louisiana has an Indigent Defenders Board or Public Defenders that represent those accused of crimes in Louisiana. However, you have to qualify by submitting your income information. You may be denied a public defender if you make too much money or have a multitude of assets. If you don’t qualify for a public defender, you will be expected to hire your own criminal defense attorney. Further, you may want to hire your own attorney anyway to give you the opportunity to choose your own criminal defense attorney.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you choose the best criminal law attorney for your case:
Areas of Practice
You will want to set an appointment for a consultation to speak about your case. It’s a good idea to meet with 3 – 4 attorneys to ensure you choose the right one. You will have to work with this attorney for a while, even up to a few years in some cases. You need to choose a defense attorney that you can easily communicate with and can get in touch with at a moment’s notice. Most attorneys practice multiple areas of law, but criminal law is a little different. You don’t want to be your attorney’s first criminal defense client, nor do you want an attorney that specializes in another area of law, but takes your case because you pay them.
The criminal defense attorney you choose should have a law practice that mainly deals with criminal law matters or at least around 75% criminal law. It can take years for an attorney to learn the ins and outs of the justice system in Louisiana and you want to make sure the attorney you choose has experience helping clients such as yourself.
Experience can be a huge factor when choosing a criminal defense attorney. An attorney who has handled more cases similar to yours has seen more and knows how to assist you at each step of your case. They will have encountered multiple scenarios similar to yours and will know how to handle any issues that arise. They’ve also had trials in front of the same judges against the same prosecutors and know what to expect. Each judge is different and an experienced criminal defense attorney will know what that particular judge likes to see and how they are likely to rule on the case at hand. However, experience isn’t everything as a new attorney can still provide top-shelf representation. In fact, a new attorney with few clients may fight even harder for you because they have a name to build. Speak with your candidates about their experience and if they don’t have much experience handling cases similar to yours, ask them how they will overcome that obstacle.
The criminal defense attorney you choose doesn’t necessarily have to live in the area where your criminal proceedings will be held, but it doesn’t hurt if he or she is close by. Each parish in Louisiana has different local rules. The laws are the same, but each court house is run differently. You want an attorney that knows the particular local rules or traditions of the courthouse where you will be standing in front of the judge or jury. Also, you want to be able to speak with your criminal defense attorney in person when you have an issue. Most attorneys practice law in multiple parishes, so make sure your attorney has handled cases in the parish where you will be going to court. It also helps that your attorney has worked with the local prosecutors and has a good working relationship with them.
Criminal defense attorneys in Louisiana can be expensive, but worth every penny. Their job is to get you the best deal possible or to prove your innocence during trial. You could end up making your case worse by representing yourself, but you need to shop attorneys and see what you can afford. Some criminal defense attorneys will take your case for a small amount and others ask for proof that you can afford them before signing up. You will want to call a few attorneys and ask what they normally charge for your type of case. Criminal law matters differ from personal injury cases and you will likely have to pay a retainer up front to your attorney.
Most attorneys have been reviewed by previous clients in some form or another. There are numerous websites that allow users to write reviews regarding their representation by any particular attorney. While lawyer reviews can be helpful, take them with a grain of salt. Many cases are decided against parties no matter how hard their attorney fought for them. Unhappy clients are always open to writing scathing reviews and you will likely see some of these “bad” reviews. Keep in mind there may not have been anything the lawyer could have done to get a better outcome for that client. Also, keep in mind that sometimes the other party tries to review the attorney. This is unfair as reviews should only be for clients that hired the attorney and not the other party.
One of the easiest ways to find the best criminal defense attorney in Louisiana is to ask friends and family who they suggest. You will find that many of your acquaintances have had to hire an attorney and they can give you first-hand knowledge of how well that attorney performed. You will probably hear the same 4-5 names around town over and over as the top criminal defense attorneys in your area. Your next step would be to contact each one and schedule a consultation.
Every attorney has a case load, but some of the more popular attorneys have nearly impossible schedules. This means it may take them a while before they are able to handle your case. This could be problematic as you don’t get to choose your court date. You will want to bring all of your paperwork to your consultation so the attorney can tell you upfront if they will be prepared in time.
You don’t have to be best friends with your attorney, but you must be able to communicate and discuss your situation in order for you to be a good match. Criminal proceedings in Louisiana can take months and even years in some cases and you will need to establish a good relationship with your attorney.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need an Attorney if I’m Innocent?
You need an attorney present with you during every aspect of your criminal proceedings. Innocent people go to jail all the time. This is why you need an attorney present with you every single time you go to court. Don’t think for one second that you aren’t in danger even though you are innocent. A prosecutor’s job is to prosecute you based on the information they have been provided. A few good arguments by the prosecutor and you could land yourself in jail – even if you didn’t do the crime. Always have an attorney by your side to protect your rights.
Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Get Me a Better Deal?
Absolutely. They know how the system works and how to get the most out of a deal for you. The District Attorney’s office will submit an offer and the defense will counter or try to get you a lenient sentence. They can sometimes keep you out of jail and into one of the many programs that the DA will accept for your crime. They can also object to certain evidence and sometimes have evidence thrown out so that it cannot be used against you. This can make your deal much better.
Disclaimer: This website does not intend to give legal advice for your case. Please contact an attorney with any questions you may have as this blog is not intended to be used as legal advice.