How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer: 10 Criteria to Use

June 10, 2024 | By Shane Phelps
How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer: 10 Criteria to Use

When facing criminal charges, the impact of choosing the right criminal defense lawyer is nothing short of monumental. The outcome of your case significantly impacts your future, so select a competent, experienced, and capable attorney. 

Here are some critical factors to consider when choosing a criminal defense lawyer:

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1. Knowledge of Criminal Law

Every criminal defense lawyer must deeply understand criminal law. While many attorneys practice in multiple areas, a lawyer with deep knowledge of criminal defense is likely to have intense insights and more relevant experience. 

They are more familiar with the intricacies of criminal law, ongoing changes in legislation, and judicial interpretations, and they typically have more in-depth relationships with prosecutors and judges, which can be advantageous.

2. Local Experience

Choosing a lawyer with experience in the local courts provides a strategic advantage in your case. Every district has its quirks regarding how the judiciary and prosecutors handle cases. 

A lawyer familiar with the local system and practices and knows the prosecutors and judges can anticipate likely moves and tailor their strategy accordingly.

3. Reputation and Client Reviews

A lawyer using a laptop and mobile phone reads client reviews about their satisfaction and gives five-star ratings.

In this digital age, you can usually check a lawyer’s reputation through online reviews and testimonials. Look for consistent patterns, both positive and negative. 

While a few bad reviews among many good ones shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, consistent complaints about communication or lack of professionalism should be taken seriously.

4. Availability and Communication

Your lawyer should be available to you when you need them. During your initial consultation, ask about their current caseload and how it might affect their availability to work on your case

Assess how they communicate. Are they clear and understandable? Do they respond promptly to calls or emails? A good defense lawyer should be approachable and responsive, ensuring you are informed every step of the way.

5. Transparent Billing Practices

You must know how you will pay before hiring a lawyer. Some attorneys charge a flat fee, while others bill by the hour. Ensure you know the services included in their cost and what might constitute additional charges.

Billing transparency helps you manage your finances and avoids unpleasant surprises as your case progresses.

6. Approach and Strategy

Different lawyers have different styles. Some might take an aggressive approach, while others prefer a more measured, strategic approach. During your consultation, discuss potential strategies for your defense. 

A competent lawyer articulates a preliminary strategy based on the information you provide. Ensure that their approach aligns with your expectations and comfort level.

7. Professional Connections and Resources

Legal consultation with lawyers team meeting for contract finalization. Lawyers discuss agreements during a contract review session.

A well-connected lawyer with a network of professional resources can help. These resources might include private investigators, forensic experts, and other specialists who can contribute critical information and testimony to your defense. 

An attorney with access to these resources and knows how to use them effectively can significantly strengthen your case.

8. Consider Their Ethical Record

An often-overlooked aspect when choosing a lawyer is their ethical record. You can review potential ethical violations by checking with the state bar association. An attorney with a history of ethical complaints should be considered a red flag.

9. Personal Comfort

You will share details about your life and potentially stressful, intimate aspects of your case. 

You must feel comfortable and trust your attorney, as an excellent client-lawyer relationship can improve the effectiveness of the defense.

10. Courtroom Experience

A criminal waits for the court's ruling in the courtroom.

While many aspects of a legal defense involve negotiating and strategic planning outside the courtroom, effectively arguing a case in court remains a crucial skill for any criminal defense lawyer. 

Not all attorneys have significant trial experience, which can hurt you in a contested case. When selecting a defense lawyer, ask about their courtroom experience. 

A confident and seasoned trial attorney will likely enhance your chance of a favorable outcome. This includes familiarity with trial procedures and the ability to think quickly under pressure, present evidence compellingly, and engage effectively with jurors and judges. 

Courtroom prowess can significantly influence the dynamics of criminal defense, making it an essential factor to consider when choosing your lawyer.

What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Texas Do for Their Clients?

A criminal defense lawyer safeguards the rights of the criminally accused, ensuring they receive a fair and impartial trial under the law. They act as the client’s advocate, navigating the complex waters of criminal proceedings from the moment of arrest to trial and, if necessary, appeals.

A criminal defense lawyer has extensive responsibilities. They provide crucial legal advice during police interrogations, protecting their clients from self-incrimination. They handle bail hearings, arguing for the client’s release under reasonable conditions, which enables more effective trial preparation.

In preparing for trial, a criminal defense lawyer thoroughly investigates the case. They gather evidence, interview witnesses, and craft a strategy that highlights the case’s strengths while identifying and exploiting weaknesses in the prosecution’s arguments. This may involve consulting forensic experts, analyzing crime scenes, and reviewing police procedures and evidence handling.

These lawyers also serve as negotiators, often arranging plea bargains with prosecutors that can lead to reduced charges or lesser sentencing. 

If a case goes to trial, they are skilled litigators, presenting the defense case to the jury, cross-examining prosecution witnesses, and passionately advocating on their client’s behalf.

A criminal defense lawyer achieves the best possible outcome for their clients, whether a not-guilty verdict, a lesser sentence, or the best possible plea deal, while upholding the highest standards of legal ethics and personal integrity.

The right lawyer makes all the difference.

Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer in Central Texas is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. At the Law Offices of Shane Phelps, we meet these criteria with a deep commitment to our clients and a thorough understanding of the law. 

We encourage you to contact us for a consultation. We can discuss your case and demonstrate how we can help protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome. Remember, the right lawyer can make a significant difference in your case. Choose wisely.

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Shane Phelps

Lead Attorney

As founder of Shane Phelps Law, Bryan/College Station criminal defense attorney Shane Phelps has a reputation as a leading trial lawyer in the Central Texas area. With decades of experience as both a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney, Shane has tried more than 300 jury trials, everything from DWI to Capital Murder.

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