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Six Must-Have Qualities in a Criminal Defense Attorney


Life is not always predictable, and at some point you may find yourself in an unexpected legal situation with no idea how to proceed. If you are charged with a criminal offense, then you will need to hire a lawyer as soon as possible to protect your interests. Here are the top six qualities to look for in your attorney, as explained by criminal defense lawyer Kensley Barrett.

1. State-Held License

First and foremost, your lawyer should be licensed to practice law in your state. It is possible to hold a law degree without passing the bar exam, and while it is illegal for people to falsely represent themselves as certified lawyers, it does happen. Fortunately, it is easy to search public records for your potential lawyer's licensing information. Once you have confirmed your attorney's status, you can move on to your next steps.

2. Experience With the Charges

One way to increase the possibility that you will be cleared of your charges is to work with a lawyer who has tried similar cases in the past. This ensures that your lawyer has already extensively studied the laws in question and has strategized about good defense methods before. Depending on what you have been charged with and where you live, you may even be able to hire someone who is a certified specialist in the discipline.

3. Experience With the Locale

If possible, your lawyer should have previous experience working with the judge and other court officials who will be involved with your case. This will help him or her develop appropriate strategies based on what he or she knows of the various personalities and professional styles at play. For example, if your lawyer is acquainted with a certain police officer associated with your case, then he or she may shape cross-examination tactics around what they know of the officer's preferences and biases. This type of inside knowledge could ultimately be critical to the outcome of your case.

4. Honest Explanations

Since you have not been to law school, there is a lot you do not know about the criminal justice system. This ignorance can be dangerous, which is why you need a reliable defense attorney on your side. A defense lawyer should be able to explain the multiple facets of any given situation as it arises.

For example, if the prosecution offers a deal, your lawyer should explain the advantages and disadvantages of taking it, as well as his or her professional opinion of what you should do. While you do get the final say in these decisions, it is helpful to have someone on your side who can guide you to the wisest route.

5. Evidence of Success

It is rare for any lawyer to have won every single case, but you should still choose a lawyer with a proven track record. This indicates that your lawyer not only has what it takes to win, but has also done what it takes in the past. Once again, you should be able to use public records to find out about the results of cases your attorney has worked on previously. Some lawyers also choose to share success stories on their websites, which can help you cultivate a clearer picture of their preferred style of defense.

6. Personal Compatibility

If you are trying to pick between equally qualified lawyers, then you may want to let personality be the deciding factor. While you do not have to be best friends with your lawyer, you should feel like he or she is trustworthy and reliable. You will likely have a better trial experience if your lawyer answers your questions helpfully and involves you in decisions. Of course, you may not have the opportunity to interview each one individually. In this case, you can browse their websites to develop ideas about their personalities.

Making the Choice

Taking the time to do your research before hiring an attorney could have a dramatic impact on the course of the rest of your life. As you compare potential candidates, be sure to consider their histories, experiences, and personalities. No one wants to have to hire a defense attorney, and the process in undoubtedly stressful. However, following these tips can help you prepare for the task and possibly enjoy a more positive overall experience.

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