So you’ve just been arrested or cited for a criminal offense and now you need to figure out what to do? I assume that you have already cleared the jail/bond issue, but if not I suggest you click HERE and refer to my page dedicated to jail and bail bond procedure.
Now it is time to figure out how to address your Miami criminal charge. If you are spending the time to read this post, you are likely one that is inclined to hire a private attorney to walk you through the process. Although the internet is one of many sources one can use in hiring a lawyer, it may not be the best one. Any criminal defense attorney can pay for an online advertisement or drop enough money to affect his or her google ranking. Just because a lawyer’s web page falls on the first page of google it does not mean that he or she is the best one for the job. Some of the best lawyers in Miami either do not have a web page or do not have much of an online presence. That is not to say that quality lawyers (including yours truly) can not be found online and/or through social media, but I am just warning you in advance to shop online with skepticism. Furthermore, you may be directed to use some of the “independent” legal sources, but be aware that a great majority of those lean heavily in favor of attorneys that advertise with them or pay for premium placement. Lastly, you will likely have a mailbox full of legal solicitations within a week of your arrest. I can not and won’t tell you to throw them out or turn them into coasters, but think of it like this: if you needed surgery, would you let some doctor cut you open that came to your house banging on your door begging to do it? Didn’t think so.
As is with most professions, the best way to find your best legal options is through referral. You may be embarrassed or scared to let someone you know that you have been arrested,…get over it (or pretend you are asking for a friend). You would not blindly hire a heart surgeon off the web, so why find your lawyer the same way? Depending on your profession or the seriousness of the charge, the resolution of your criminal case could be tragic if not handled by the right person. So, call your accountant, call the attorney that handled the closing on your house, or call whomever it is in your life that would know what to do. Take what information you receive and then use the web to vet your choices if you wish.
When you meet with your potential attorneys, do so armed with questions. Also, meet with more than one or two, no matter how much you like the first guy. Things you should keep in mind:
-Is he/she a trial lawyer? I am not suggesting that your case should or will go to trial. The likelihood is that your case will not. But, a true litigator, someone who can pick a jury and is not afraid a verdict, not only knows how to prepare a case, but he or she is armed and dangerous. Prosecutors know which attorneys are a afraid of trial or have little trial experience. If the State has nothing to fear and it knows that at the end of the day the case will be a plea, then what is the motivation to negotiate?
-If he/she is a trial lawyer, when was the last case he/she tried? Don’t concern yourself with the verdict or the attorney’s record, but you should ask about the last few cases the firm took to a jury. What the charges were and how long ago? Get case numbers, do not let them spout off about all these complicated cases without calling them out. Many will fumble. And I tell you to disregard the verdict, because every case is different. Some cases are losers and some cases are winners, and if a lawyer tells you that he has never lost a case, then he is either lying, has little experience, or lays down on the hard ones.
I hope this little post helped. For a more in-depth look at the criminal lawyer hiring process, I suggest you read: The-Truth-About-Hiring-a-Criminal-Defense-Lawyer by my colleague Brian Tannebaum.