How to hire a criminal lawyer in West Palm Beach
Hiring, criteria, questions to ask a West Palm Beach criminal attorney
How to choose a Criminal lawyer, Picking the right criminal attorney for your West Palm Beach criminal case
Trust is probably the single most important factor in choosing a West Palm Beach criminal lawyer to represent you. Also, you want someone who is honest, listens, and cares about you and your case.
Board Certified by the Florida Bar
Statistically speaking, 99 out of 100 Florida lawyers are not board certified. Board certified lawyers can call themselves “experts” and not get disciplined by the Florida Bar. No other lawyers can. Why? Because they take a separate bar exam, are subjected to peer review by other lawyers they tried cases against and by judges they have tried cases in front of as well. If your case is a criminal case, you should ask the lawyer if they are board certified in criminal trial law. If your life is at stake, you owe it to yourself to hire a Florida Bar board certified criminal trial lawyer. Many folks think that a lawyer is a lawyer. Some think “well, he advertises that he does criminal defense, so he must practice criminal defense.” When lawyers are looking to hire their own lawyer, one of first things they look for is board certification. Board certification is an independent way of verifying the lawyer specializes in his area of certification.
Do I like him?
All things being equal, I do business with people I like. Take your time and talk with the lawyer on the phone, or even better, in person. See if he looks you in the eye, shakes your hand firmly, and makes you feel at ease. If you can’t meet him in person, go with your gut feeling after speaking with him on the phone. If you don’t feel comfortable, go on to the next one.
You deserve a lawyer who is passionate about his work. To some lawyers, their career is just a job. It is a way to pay the bills. I have bills to pay as well. However, I wake up every day looking forward to defending the bill of rights and the Constitution and sticking up for the little guy against the government. I love my career. If I won the lottery, I would still practice criminal defense.
For many people accussed of crimes, price is a huge issue when hiring a criminal defense lawyer. Everyone wants to hire the best criminal lawyer they can, but few actually have the money to do so. The folks that don't have any money are appointed an assistant public defender. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. If a lawyer is cheap, there’s a reason. A cheap lawyer is generally not going to prepare for depositions, file motions, try your case before a jury or truly fight for you. He is going to plea you out the first chance he gets after doing no work. I see this happen every day in the criminal justice system in Florida. This is no time to skimp with money if you can make it happen. Call your family and friends. Get some credit cards together, sell some stuff and hire the best lawyer that you can. He probably charges more than you want to pay. However, he may be worth it many times over. Especially with your freedom, you don’t want to have the cheapest lawyer in town representing you. What would you pay to keep out of prison for a year? 5 years? 10 years, life? What would you pay to keep your professional license so you can earn a living to provide for your family? What would you pay to gain back your tarnished reputation? Can you really put a dollar value on that?
Experience is certainly a factor. You want your lawyer to have some criminal defense experience. Many excellent attorneys have a lot of experience. However, an experienced criminal lawyer might also be a horrible lawyer. You don’t want to be stuck with a horrible, yet experienced, lawyer. Your freedom is in his hands. Some older, yet experienced, lawyers may not be up for the fight. On the other hand, a lawyer fresh out of school could be fantastic for you if you get a good vibe off of him. You probably don’t want to be his first client. However, he may have the enthusiasm and work ethic you’re looking for. Jury trials require a lawyer to be on his toes all the time, have knowledge of criminal and civil procedure, case law, jury instructions, know when to make objections and when to shut up. You should ask the criminal defense lawyer "How many jury trials have you done?" That will tell you a lot about him. Also, ask if he is board certified by the Florida Bar in criminal trials.
Is the lawyer going to call you back? Some lawyers just don't call their clients back. A great trial lawyer listens and gives you straightforward answers to your questions. Also, he must memorize vast amounts of material, condense it and then effectively communicate it to the jury. The lawyer must speak plain language to be an effective communicator. Many lawyers use big words that some people don’t understand. That’s not communicating. That is being arrogant and ignorant.
Beware of lawyers that guarantee a particular result. While you understandably would want a guarantee as to the outcome, it is unethical for any lawyer to do so. The only thing I guarantee is that I will do everything in my power (both legally and ethically) to fight the criminal charges against you or fight to get you the money you deserve.
Does the lawyer have the time to devote to your case? Do they have a low-volume practice, so they can give you, the client, the individualized attention that you deserve? When I was a former assistant public defender in Palm Beach county, I handled over 1,000 cases. Typically, I handled 50 to over 100 cases at a time. It is difficult to work cases up like they should be worked up with such a high-volume. Unfortunately, the legislature has determined that spending money to hire more assistant public defenders is not high on their priority list. Some private lawyers have associates that do all the work on their cases. That enables them to have a high-volume practice and make more money. It is impossible for me to be in two places at the same time. Sometimes, I have another lawyer stand in for me, but only to reset the case to when I can be there.
This website is an advertisement. Hopefully, you can take the information here with a smaller grain of salt than most lawyer websites. It’s hard to tell much about a lawyer from only an ad. Few lawyers look bad on the internet. Try to confirm more about them through other sources like other lawyers or your friends. A word on “former prosecutors.” Some are great lawyers. However, hiring someone just because they are a “former prosecutor” makes no sense. They may still have the prosecutor’s mentality that “these guys are all dirt bags and need to go to prison, but at least I’m getting paid better now.” Here’s a pervasive myth- one some former prosecutors exploit – you will get preferential treatment because they have a “relationship” with the prosecutors. The prosecutors cannot be bought. The relationship, if there even is still one there, is not going to amount to a hill of beans. Everybody who really practices criminal defense “knows the prosecutor.” That does not mean you’re going to get any preferential treatment from them if you hire a former prosecutor. You won’t.
Leadership in the Community
Does the lawyer take a leadership role in the community? I volunteer every year with the literacy coalition of Palm Beach county reading to kids. As a father of two, I know that reading is important to the development of kids. I also have played guitar and sang throughout Palm Beach county with Inspirit. I have performed at Alzheimer’s communities, old folk’s homes and other places. Inspirit’s mission is to “bring the joy and healing power of live music and the performing arts to those isolated members of our community who are living in a restricted environment.”
You want a lawyer who has a track record of trying cases before juries. I have tried over 100 criminal jury and non-jury trials to verdict. Clarence Darrow used to say “The only real lawyers are trial lawyers and trial lawyers try cases before juries.” I've tried first degree murder with a firearm cases, federal drug trafficking, countless DUI and violent cases too.
Continuing Legal Education
You deserve a lawyer who keeps up with changes in the law. The Florida Bar requires lawyers to have 30 continuing legal education credits every three years. Every year, I exceed the required amount of CLE credits. I usually have almost two to three times the required amount of CLE credits by the end of the 3 year term. I even teach other lawyers about special jury instructions at conferences like the national NORML (www.norml.org) conference in Key West, Florida and presented Evidentiary issues in domestic violence cases, Florida Bar, 2013. Although the live presentation was at the Hyatt Regency in Fort Lauderdale, the webinar was statewide.
You are still reading? Ok, I will tell you what my grandpa Paps used to tell me. Paps was a decorated World War II veteran who stormed the beaches at Normandy. I lived with my grandparents when I was a teenager and learned a great deal from them. Anyway, Paps always told me “When I was in the military, they taught us – you have to tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, then tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” So here it is:
Trust is probably the single most important factor in choosing a criminal defense lawyer to represent you. Also, you want someone who is honest, listens, and cares about you and your case.
“Law is not black and white, it's Grey”