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Finding a criminal defense attorney should be at the top of your list of priorities after being charged with a crime, but it can be easy to make mistakes when you’re feeling stressed. To help you avoid those mistakes – and potentially even hiring the wrong lawyer – here are a few essential questions you should ask during your search for a criminal defense attorney.

How will we communicate?
Knowing the exact avenues of communication available to you is an extremely important piece of information, especially when it comes to criminal defense lawyers. Staying in contact with your attorney and up to date on your case will make it that much easier to understand fully what’s going on. But if your lawyer doesn’t specify how and when you will be in communication, that’s a red flag. Make sure to choose a lawyer who prioritizes excellent communication.

Just as importantly, make sure to ask how often you will communicate with your criminal defense attorney. Hiring a legal representative is rarely inexpensive, and it’s important to have a realistic expectation for the amount of contact you will have.

How long have you been practicing criminal law?
Experience could be another make or break factor in your decision to hire an attorney. While it’s true that every lawyer had their beginnings somewhere, minimal experience may not work to your advantage in a serious case. In addition, you should ask about experience regarding cases similar to yours. The average drunk driver has gotten behind the wheel an average of 80 times before his or her first arrest, but even if you’ve been charged with your first DUI, you deserve help. The more specific a lawyer’s experience, the better.

How many cases have you won?
Unfortunately, experience in the field doesn’t matter if the majority of the attorney’s cases were lost. Of course, and any lawyer will tell you this, prior outcomes do not guarantee similar results. That being said, bad experience isn’t something you want when you need legal representation in a criminal case.

How can you know if a particular defense attorney is familiar with your type of case? Ask about the judges you might be facing on your day in court.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
Good attorneys will be able to examine your case and tell you its strengths and weaknesses, as well as how to overcome those weaknesses. Many public defenders will simply push clients to accept a plea deal, but you deserve an attorney who will take the time to examine your case and come up with a viable defense.

No matter what crime you’ve been charged with, make sure you’re asking these questions during your search for a criminal defense attorney.