How to Choose the Best Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
Insider Tips & 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Federal Case
If you are being investigated by federal authorities, if you have been arrested by federal agents, or if you have been indicted for a federal crime, your choice of attorneys could impact the rest of your life. Many federal charges carry the potential for substantial fines and long-term imprisonment, and facing federal allegations can have negative repercussions in other ways as well. If you are going to avoid these consequences, you are going to need to defend yourself effectively, and you are going to need to make an informed choice about your legal representation.
How do you choose the right defense lawyer for your federal criminal case? In this article, we will explain everything you need to know.
What are the Most-Important Traits to Look for in a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer?
No two lawyers are the same. Perhaps this could go without saying. However, what many people do not realize is just how different two lawyers can be. This is particularly true in the area of criminal defense.
To begin, providing representation in federal cases is very different from providing representation in state cases. Not only do individuals and businesses targeted in federal cases tend to have far more at stake, but the procedures involved in defending against federal allegations are far more complex and nuanced as well. Each federal agency utilizes its own investigative techniques and tactics, and federal jurisdictions throughout the country have different procedural rules and interpret federal criminal statutes differently. While defending against state-level criminal allegations is not easy, it is far more straightforward than defending against criminal allegations under federal law.
Experience is a relevant factor as well. Another thing many people do not realize is that when a person graduates from law school and passes the bar, he or she is free to choose any practice area, without reservation. While this affords many opportunities to recent law school graduates, it also means that junior associates in large law firms and newly-minted solo attorneys do not have any special training—even if they hold themselves out as focusing their practice in a particular area. So, while anyone with a valid law license can hold himself or herself out as a federal criminal defense lawyer, this alone does not necessarily indicate any level of relevant experience.
We could continue this discussion ad nauseum, but we suspect you get the idea. When you need a lawyer for a federal criminal case, you need to look for a lawyer who has specific (and extensive) experience handling federal criminal matters.
5 Key Characteristics of a Skilled Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
When researching experienced federal criminal defense lawyers and ultimately deciding who you want fighting to protect your freedom and your future on your behalf, what are the key characteristics you should consider? Here are five characteristics that we believe are essential to providing effective legal representation in high-stakes federal criminal cases:
Key Characteristic #1: Affiliation with a Nationwide Federal Defense Practice
Defending against federal allegations can be a substantial undertaking; and, depending on the circumstances involved, it can potentially span multiple federal jurisdictions in multiple states. As a result, it is important to choose a lawyer who is affiliated with a nationwide federal defense practice. Not only will this ensure that your law firm has the capabilities and resources required to defend your case regardless of where it may lead, but it will also ensure that your attorney’s work focuses on federal criminal defense—as opposed to being only a small part of his or her practice.
Key Characteristic #2: Significant Experience Defending Clients in High-Level Federal Criminal Cases
Due to the unique complexities of federal criminal cases, you need to choose a lawyer who has significant experience defending clients in high-level federal matters. A lawyer who lacks relevant experience will not be able to hit the ground running, and he or she will need to spend time getting up to speed while federal agents and prosecutors continue on their path toward seeking an indictment or taking your case to trial. A lawyer who has sufficient experience will know how to attack your case from the outset, and he or she will be able to intervene immediately to make sure you have every possible opportunity to avoid charges and a conviction at trial.
Key Characteristic #3: Significant Prior Experience at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or the U.S. Attorney’s Office
An attorney who has prior experience investigating and prosecuting federal criminal cases at the DOJ or the U.S. Attorney’s Office will be able to offer unparalleled insights into your criminal case. If your attorney does not have this prior experience directly, he or she should affiliate with other senior-level attorneys who do. Ideally, the firm you choose will also engage the services of former investigative agents who can provide additional insights into how and why the federal government pursues specific types of criminal charges.
Key Characteristic #4: Proven Results at All Stages of the Federal Criminal Justice Process
Avoiding unnecessary consequences as the result of a federal investigation involves much more than fighting to avoid a guilty verdict at trial. In fact, your attorney’s focus should be on favorably resolving your case prior to trial if at all possible—as this is the only way to guarantee that you will not face a conviction. When choosing a federal criminal defense attorney, an extensive trial record is important, but so is a similarly-extensive record of helping clients avoid charges during their investigations, getting clients’ indictments dismissed pre-trial, and negotiating favorable plea deals that avoid prison time and while also substantially mitigating any financial liability.
Key Characteristic #5: Accessibility and the Ability to Communicate Effectively about Complex Legal Issues
Finally, when choosing a federal criminal defense attorney, you want to choose a lawyer who will be available when you call. While good federal criminal defense lawyers will be busy, your lawyer should not be so busy that he or she does not have time to speak with you about your case. When consulting with attorneys prior to making your decision, try to get a feel for how accessible they make themselves to their clients, how well they are able to communicate about complex legal issues, and how confident you feel that they will be able to represent you successfully.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
So, those are some of the things you should look for when choosing a federal criminal defense lawyer. Now, what mistakes do you need to avoid? Here are five all-too-common mistakes people make when hiring a federal criminal defense attorney:
Mistake #1: Not Hiring a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
As we discussed above, defending against federal criminal charges and defending against state criminal charges are two very different propositions. When hiring an attorney, it is absolutely imperative that you choose an attorney who handles federal criminal cases. If you don’t, you will be putting yourself at a disadvantage. You will lose valuable time while your attorney does research about the laws that apply to your case, and even after doing this research he or she will still lack the insights of an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
Mistake #2: Not Asking Enough Questions Before You Make Your Decision
Some lawyers aggressively market their services to prospective clients. While this is not necessarily unethical, it does mean that you need to take your time and ask plenty of questions before you make your decision. Does the lawyer have the experience and insights required to defend you effectively? Or, does he or she have a good sales pitch that brings new clients in the door?
Mistake #3: Not Asking for Client References Before You Make Your Decision
In addition to asking targeted questions about an attorney’s experience, one of the best ways to learn about an attorney’s capabilities is to ask for client references. You can review testimonials as well, but there is often no substitute for speaking with someone about their personal experience one-on-one.
Mistake #4: Ignoring Warning Signs that You Should Choose Another Lawyer
In many cases, people ignore warning signs that they should choose another lawyer because they are solely focused on hiring any attorney as soon as possible. While it is important that you engage defense counsel promptly, it is more important that you choose a lawyer who can get to work immediately on your case.
Mistake #5: Waiting Too Long to Hire a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
The final and most-common mistake we see is that people simply way too long to hire a federal criminal defense attorney. If you are under investigation or facing charges – or if you have reason to believe that you may be under investigation soon – you should discuss your situation with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney right away.
Schedule a Complimentary Case Assessment with a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney at Oberheiden Law – The Federal Lawyer
Do you need a federal criminal defense lawyer? If so, one of our senior attorneys will be happy to meet with you over the phone to discuss your needs in confidence. To get your questions answered and receive a complimentary case assessment, call 469-587-6703 or contact us online now.