What to Look for When Finding
A Criminal Lawyer in Your Area
If you have been arrested for any charge, you want to find the best attorney who can help you fight the charges. You might be tempted to just search for a “defense lawyer near me,” but if you don’t know what to look for, you might not end up getting someone with the experience and skills you need. I am attorney Peter Liss and I have over 35 years of experience helping thousands of people fight all types of criminal charges. I can help you with your case from the beginning all the way to the end, including helping you find the best attorney and what to ask during your initial consultation.
How to Find the Best Attorney
If you’ve never been in legal trouble before, you might not know where to turn when you are arrested. You may be inclined to search online for a “defense attorney near me,” but you probably don’t know what to look for when hiring one. While you might consider reviews from past clients or ask your friends or family for advice on who they recommend, ultimately you’ll need to make the decision for yourself. Here are some tips to help you hire the best lawyer for your needs:
Make Sure He is Easy to Get a Hold of
If someone is too busy to meet you in person, listen to you and answer any questions you might have, then you should question whether or not he will have enough time to provide you with the help you need to successfully fight the charges you are facing. Peter M. Liss, is available to clients all hours of the day thanks to his 24-hour live answering service, and as a solo practitioner, he ensures he offers each of his clients personalized and dedicated service.
Check Ratings, Especially on AVVO
When trying to find the best attorney, check rating sites like Yelp and Google, but don’t forget to check AVVO, a top legal website that offers ratings and reviews for 95% of all American lawyers. I have 75 five-star reviews and a near perfect rating on the site. Also look around to see if he has been given any prestigious awards or honors, such as earning an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell (like I have earned), which is only given to lawyers who have been judged by his fellow attorneys to have demonstrated the highest level of legal skills and standards in the field.
You may also want to check the State Bar Association website to see if he has any complaints, misconduct charges or malpractice accusations against him. In my case, the answer is no.
Don’t Trust Someone Who Guarantees Your Outcome
A good attorney should be able to evaluate your case and give you a fair assessment of your situation and what his track record has been with similar cases. While knowing how he has fared in the past is a good indicator of how he will perform in the future, no one can guarantee how a criminal case will end up. Attorneys who promise you’ll be found not guilty, are selling you a line, not the truth.
Find a Lawyer You Feel Comfortable With
Aside from being able to evaluate your lawyer’s availability in scheduling an initial consultation, you can also get an idea of his dedication by explaining your situation and asking him some simple questions during your first meeting (there are some samples below for your convenience). Aside from getting an idea about how he will defend you and providing the answers for your pressing interview questions, this should also give you time to determine how you feel around him and if he is willing to spend the time to address all of your concerns or if he seems to be rushing you.
When working with a lawyer, you need to be able to be open about the details of your situation and you need to trust your defense attorney. If you can’t express yourself freely or don’t believe what he tells you, it’s a good sign you should choose someone else.
Ask About His Rates
It’s critical you know how much these services will cost before you hire a defense attorney near you because you don’t want to be blindsided. But keep in mind that just because you want the best legal representation doesn’t mean you should have to pay a fortune and, on the other hand, just because a lawyer is expensive doesn’t always mean he’s the best. If you can’t afford someone’s rates, you should find another high-rated attorney with rates you can afford.
Good attorneys won’t necessarily cost a fortune, but anyone reliable should be open about their fee structure. If someone hesitates to tell you how much their services cost, that should be a red flag. You should also find out what payment methods he accepts, especially if you can’t afford to pay with cash. In my offices, I offer fair rates and accept all major credit cards.
What to Ask a Lawyer During Your Consultation
When it comes to what to look for in an attorney, one of the most important things is that you feel confident in his ability to handle your case —you don’t want to have to hire a new lawyer later on. But for many people who have been charged with a crime, it can be hard to know what to ask during your initial consultation to help ensure you find the best legal representation. Be sure to ask a prospective lawyer questions like these to get a good idea of his experience and expertise.
What’s Your Background Like?
Be sure he covers his education, work experience and how long he has been practicing law. You may also want to ask the attorney questions about volunteer work, awards or any professional organizations he may be involved with.
When it comes to my background, I graduated from the top-ten ranked University of California Berkeley Law School. I have been practicing in the Vista courts for over 35 years and over that time, I have tried and handled every type of criminal case from DUI to Capital Murder. I teach young lawyers trial skills at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA). Before starting my private practice over 20 years ago, I was a Legal Aid lawyer and public defender for 15 years including Assistant Supervising lawyer for the Vista office.
What Type of Cases do you Handle?
Good attorneys shouldn’t practice divorce law, personal injury law and criminal law. The criminal justice system is simply too complex for someone to handle all types of crimes along with other these other legal specialties.
How Many Cases Like Mine Have you Taken?
It’s important to ask a prospective defense lawyer in your area about what kinds of cases they take. You want to know that an attorney handles a decent amount of cases like yours -for example, if 90% of their case load involves DUIs, you probably don’t want to join in with the 1% of fraud charges they’ve helped fight. It’s worth noting though that some crimes are more common than others, so if you’re fighting treason charges, don’t be surprised if a defense attorney has only represented one or two other clients against the same charge.
What are the Maximum and Most Likely and Sentences I Could Face?
Often people think they are going to be sentenced to the maximum punishment the law allows, when that is rarely the case, which is why you should ask a potential questions about what you should expect realistically.
There are also often additional consequences for certain crimes like DUI and Domestic Violence which are best explained by lawyers as they can sometimes be confusing. The important point is the attorney should understand the variables which go into determining the outcome of a case and range of penalties. He may also be able to tell you if those convicted of the crime are ever given the option of alternative sentencing.
Is there Anything I Should or Shouldn’t Do?
Lawyers generally don’t give legal advice online or over the phone, but at your initial consultation, they will often be willing to advise you on what they think you should do in your situation. Sometimes your lawyer may advise you work with the victim to make restitution, for example, if you’ve been accused of vandalizing a business, they may suggest you voluntarily repair for the damage or pay to fix it. Other times he may urge you to avoid talking to anyone, including the victim, about the case. Occasionally, you may want to start attending anger management or drug treatment programs as soon as possible.
It’s important to know what your attorney may ask of you as soon as possible so you won’t have any conflicts about these issues later on. After all, if you are going to be unwilling to seek treatment prior to being convicted for a crime, you don’t want to work with someone who assumes this won’t be a problem for you.
Who Else Will be Working on my Case?
If you are working with a large firm, the attorney you speak with at your consultation might not even be the one that handles your case. Always ask the attorney questions about who, specifically, will be working on your case and see if you can meet and evaluate them as well. When it comes to solo practitioners like me, the lawyer you meet with originally will be the same one handling your case every step of the way.
How can I Contact You?
You don’t want to be left in the dark with your case. A good attorney should give you contact information so you can talk to him whenever necessary.
How Much do you Think this Will Cost and What Payment Methods do you Accept?
It’s worth noting that while fees may go up if the case drags on or if you and your attorney later agree to hire expert witnesses or private investigators, an honest lawyer should be able to give you some sort of estimate at the start of your case. Additionally, most people will find paying for their attorney easier if he takes credit cards.
How Long Will This Case Last?
Again, this estimate may vary based on factors that arise later on, but based on the information you provide during the consultation, he should be able to give you at least some sort of general estimate.
Keep in mind this is a generic list of questions to ask a defense attorney that could help anyone accused of a crime in San Diego County. If you have any questions that are specific to your situation, don’t forget to ask those at the consultation as well.
Want to Find the Best Attorney? Look No Further
In order to secure the best possible outcome for your given situation, it is critical you decide to only work with a lawyer with an extensive knowledge of the law, sentencing options, alternative sentencing and successful defenses to the crime you are facing. As your lawyer, I can help you by guaranteeing to:
- Promptly and courteously respond to your calls and inquiries in a timely fashion thanks to my 24/7 answering service.
- Update you about the status of your case.
- Advise you on what you can do to help your case, and what do to in order to avoid hurting your case.
- Inform you on different defense strategies that may work for your case and choose the best option for your situation.
- Never make promises about the outcome of your case.
- Work to get you freed from jail with reduced bail or on your own recognizance.
- Collect evidence on your behalf to support your defense.
- File court motions that may benefit you such as suppressing evidence, striking a prior conviction or changing venue.
- Attempt to have the charges reduced or dropped if at all possible
- Fight tirelessly on your behalf, whether working on a plea bargain or representing you in a trial. For most misdemeanor charges that do not involve claims of domestic violence, I can appear in court on your behalf so you never need to miss work or other activities.
- Seek to minimize your sentence or obtain some type of alternative sentence such as GPS monitoring, community service or diversion programs.
- Charge reasonable rates and accept all major credit cards.
I personally handle all cases that come through my doors and so I can provide individualized attention to everyone I represent. I will be glad to tell you more about how I can help fight the charges against you during a free initial consultation at my office, located directly across the street from the Vista jail and courthouse.
If you have been accused of any type of crime, I can help you and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your charges or the criminal justice process itself. Please call my offices today to schedule a free initial consultation with a top lawyer. I offer top-rated representation for reasonable rates, accept all major credit cards and have offices conveniently located across the street from the Vista courthouse and jail.
How to Contact Attorney Peter Liss
For skilled, IMMEDIATE help with a criminal defense, DUI defense, or defense of a serious driving charge, call Peter M. Liss:
Call 24/7, any time, any day. I can help you.
For more resources on the California criminal justice system, please see: