How to Hire a Criminal Attorney
If you have been arrested for any charge, you want to find the best attorney who can help you fight the charges. You might even just search for a “defense lawyer near me,” but if you don’t know what to look for, you might not find 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 beginning to end, including aiding you in finding the best attorney and what to ask during your initial consultation.
How to Find the Best Attorney
If this is the first time you’ve found yourself in legal trouble, you might not know where to turn. 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 recommendations, you’ll ultimately need to make the decision 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 help you successfully fight the charges you are facing. Peter M. Liss is available to clients at all hours of the day thanks to his 24-hour live answering service. As a solo practitioner, he offers each client 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, see if he has any prestigious awards or honors. For example, I have an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, meaning my fellow attorneys have judged me to demonstrate 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 trustworthy 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. Attorneys who promise a not guilty verdict are selling you a line, not the truth.
Find a Lawyer You Feel Comfortable With
Your initial consultation should let you evaluate your lawyer’s availability and his level of dedication by seeing how well he listens as you explain your situation and how thoroughly he answers your questions. Spending time in his office should give you an idea of how he might defend you and let you determine how you feel around him after seeing 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.
Make Sure You are Comfortable with His Rates
You must know how much these services will cost before hiring a defense attorney in your area because you don’t want to end up 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.
Skilled 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. I offer fair rates and accept all major credit cards.
What to Ask a Lawyer During Your Consultation
One of the most critical factors in hiring an attorney is that you feel confident in his ability to handle your case —you don’t want to hire a new lawyer after your first court date. But for many people accused of 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 your prospective lawyer questions like these to get a good idea of his experience and expertise.
What’s Your Background?
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.
As for 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. 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 serving as the Assistant Supervising lawyer for the Vista office.
What Type of Cases do you Handle?
Worthwhile attorneys won’t practice divorce, personal injury and criminal law. The criminal justice system is too complex for someone to handle all types of crimes and other legal specialties.
How Many Cases Like Mine Have you Taken?
Always ask a prospective defense lawyer near you 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 caseload involves DUIs, you probably don’t want to join in with the 1% of fraud charges they’ve helped fight. It’s worth noting that some crimes are more common than others, so if you’re fighting treason accusations, 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 Sentences I Could Face?
Often people think they will be sentenced to the maximum punishment the law allows, though that is rarely the case. To help you understand the nuances of the situation, you should ask your potential lawyer questions about what you should expect realistically.
There are also often additional consequences for certain crimes like DUI and Domestic Violence which lawyers can best explain as these can sometimes be confusing. The attorney should understand the many variables influencing a case’s potential outcome and the likely range of penalties. He may also be able to tell you if those convicted of the crime can receive alternative sentencing.
Is There Anything I Should or Shouldn’t Do?
Lawyers generally don’t give legal advice online or over the phone. During your initial consultation though, they will often be willing to advise you on what they think you should do in your situation. Sometimes your lawyer may advise you to work with the victim to make restitution. For example, if someone accused you of vandalizing their business, your attorney may suggest you voluntarily repair 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 unwilling to seek treatment before 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 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 initially will be the same one handling your entire case.
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 estimate at the start of your case. Additionally, most people will find paying for their attorney easier if he takes credit cards.
How can I Contact You?
You don’t want to be in the dark about your case. A reliable attorney should give you contact information to talk to him whenever necessary. He should also be readily available and willing to return your calls as needed, even on weekends and holidays.
How Long Will This Case Last?
Again, this estimate may vary based on factors that arise later on. However, an experienced lawyer should be able to give you at least a general estimate based on the information you provide during your consultation.
Your Situational-Specific Questions
Keep in mind that 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 specific to your situation, don’t forget to ask those at the consultation.
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.