Being charged with a federal offense can be terrifying. Federal penalties are incredibly severe, and a conviction can mean huge fines and years – or even decades – behind bars. Your future is quite literally on the line.
Because of this, you smart, tough, dedicated federal defense lawyer on your side to ensure you get the best possible outcome. But with so many criminal attorneys out there, how do you know who to choose? What should you look for?
Consider the following factors to make the best choice for your upcoming case:
Experience. Federal criminal defense is not just limited to one type of crime or area of the law. If you are defending a DUI charge, a lawyer who focuses mainly on white collar crimes is not your best bet. Ask lawyers what experience they have, what cases they typically represent, and what cases they are most passionate about representing.
Related to their experience, make sure you take a look at their record – particularly in cases similar to yours. Most attorneys make this information easily accessible on their website. But if you can’t find their past results that way, do not hesitate to ask them.
Testimonials and Ratings. Want to know what it would be like to be a client of a certain lawyer? Ask past clients. Many clients leave reviews or testimonials that let potential clients know how the attorney handled their case, the strengths of the lawyer, and the results. You may be able to find testimonials on the attorney’s website, but if not, check out listing sites like Yelp, Google+, or LinkedIn. And of course, as with their record – ask them. If a lawyer isn’t willing or able to put you in contact with past clients happy with their experience, that’s probably a sign that you should be looking elsewhere.
Recognition. Clients are not the only ones who will heap praise (or raise critiques) of defense attorneys. When you are looking for a high-quality lawyer, make sure to pay attention to the recognition he or she has received from peers and organizations in the legal community. Look at a lawyer’s rating on sites like Avvo, or reference lists and rankings created by the National Trial Lawyers. An attorney who is highly regarded by his or her peers is typically someone that you can trust.
Thoughtfulness and Honesty. While you are consulting with different lawyers, ask for their honest opinion on your case. What strategies will probably work in court? Would the attorney attempt to have your charges dropped, or simply go for a mitigated sentence? What evidence does the lawyer think they can gather for you?
You do not want to hire a lawyer who is just telling you what they think you want to hear, but being on the same page with your criminal defense attorney is key to a smooth process getting an outcome that you are both satisfied with.
An Understanding of the Federal Process. State charges are very different from federal charges, and that’s not just because the penalties tend to be more serious.
Federal Court has its own very specific set of rules, processes, and procedures that must be followed. You absolutely need to hire a lawyer who is familiar with how federal cases work, because a seemingly minor misstep can spell doom for your chances to have your charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed.
On the flip side, working with an attorney who truly understands the ins and outs of the federal system can be like having insider knowledge as they cut through the red tape and hit all the right notes to ensure your freedom and future.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has spent the last decade protecting the freedom of individuals as a criminal defense attorney, first as an associate attorney at several law firms in Illinois and currently as the owner of his own practice, Azhari LLC. His passion and tenacity in helping those accused of serious criminal wrongdoings overcome their charges have earned him a “Superb” Avvo rating and nationwide recognition through his inclusion in the Top 100 Trial Lawyers and Top 40 Under 40. He has also been nominated an Illinois Rising Star for the 3rd consecutive year, an honor bestowed among 2.5% of lawyers in the state. At the invitation of professional legal organizations, Mr. Azhari frequently presents lectures on criminal law and DUI defense and also volunteers to represent indigent defendants in Statutory Summary Suspension hearings in Chicago.