Characteristics of the BEST criminal defense attorney – FOR YOU.
As a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney, I am oftentimes asked by potential clients, “Am I the BEST criminal defense attorney in Broward County?” My response is always the same, “I am very experienced and have excellent credentials and, as such, may be the BEST criminal defense attorney for this case depending on your specific needs and wants.” Since every client has different needs and wants, no one criminal defense attorney can claim to be the BEST for everyone all the time. I have created this brief cheat sheet citing factors a potential client should seek when hiring the BEST criminal defense attorney for their specific needs and wants. Each potential client will weigh the factors below differently which is why there are many BEST criminal defense attorneys in Broward County.
Does the attorney specialize in criminal defense?
The BEST criminal defense attorney should primarily, if not exclusively, handle criminal defense matters. You would not hire a podiatrist to perform open heart surgery; do not hire a bankruptcy attorney to handle your DUI.
Where is the attorney’s office?
The BEST criminal defense attorney should primarily, if not exclusively, handle criminal defense matters in the county (or surrounding counties) you were arrested in. Although the law may be substantially the same between counties, the Court (and the State Attorney’s Office) do not always treat “out of town guests” with the same level of respect as the attorneys who routinely practice in their Courtroom. Policies, protocol, terminology, plea offers, etc. are all different depending on the jurisdiction. This does not mean a Broward attorney cannot practice in Palm Beach or Miami (if they have the required experience), but the BEST attorney for a Broward case should almost never primarily practice in Tallahassee or Orlando.
Is the attorney trial-tested?
The BEST criminal defense attorney should have ample trial experience. Even in relatively “simple” cases and/or in cases that will likely result in a plea, the Assistant State Attorney assigned to the case has discretion on how to fashion the plea offer. If your criminal attorney is “afraid” to proceed to trial due to a lack of experience, the Assistant State Attorney may take a hard line approach and not concede on certain proposed plea terms. Oftentimes, the only leverage a criminal defense attorney has at his/her disposal is the threat of proceeding to trial and obtaining an acquittal. Although not an absolute requirement, many trial-tested attorneys previously were employed as Assistant State Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, or Public Defenders.
Is the attorney well-respected?
All criminal defense attorneys will CLAIM they are respected by the Court and State Attorney’s Office. The BEST criminal defense attorney should be able to back up their claim as follows:
- Did they receive an “AV” rating by Martindale-Hubble?
- Were they invited for membership into the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers?
- Are they Board Certified?
- Did they receive any awards from independent sources such as “Super Lawyers”, “Florida Trend – Legal Elite”, “Best of Bar”, or the “South Florida Business Journal”?
- Were they previously employed at the State Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office or Public Defender’s Office?
- Does the attorney have positive reviews on GOOGLE and AVVO?
- Was the attorney referred by another attorney you respect?
Will the attorney provide you with a high level of customer service?
All criminal defense attorneys will CLAIM they provide top-notch personal service. The BEST criminal defense attorney should be able to back up their claim as follows:
- Is the attorney accessible 24/7 by phone or email?
- Does the attorney have a website with links to information?
- Is the attorney’s staff friendly and accommodating?
- Will a partner (and not an associate or paralegal) be handling your case?
- Is the attorney running a “volume” practice and does not have the time to devote to your case?
Is the attorney appropriately priced?
The BEST criminal defense attorney should be priced appropriately based on their experience, the alleged crime, and the desired outcome. Every client’s desired outcome is obviously an acquittal; however, depending on the facts, an acquittal may be obtained by even a sub-par attorney or cannot possibly be obtained by even the BEST attorney. Moreover, sometimes clients are amenable to probation if it means they are not sentenced to prison. To use a car analogy, no one ever wants to drive a beat-up Pinto; but a Ferrari isn’t always necessary for a quick drive to the supermarket. If you are a multi-millionaire price may not be a determining factor; if finances are an issue, however, the BEST attorney is likely the most affordable criminal defense attorney who is located in the jurisdiction, is trial-tested and well-respected, and provides personal service. Additionally, the severity of the case(and possible punishment (i.e. jail, conviction) should weigh heavily on how important it is to retain the BEST criminal attorney regardless of price. Common sense dictates that a charge of sexual battery is more severe than a charge of trespass – you should hire an experienced criminal attorney accordingly.