Six Things to Consider When Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Indianapolis, IN

Are you facing criminal charges and preparing to hire a defense attorney for the first time? With your freedom and reputation on the line, choosing and hiring a lawyer to defend you can be overwhelming. 

Here are six things to consider and look for when hiring an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney. 

1. Private Criminal Defense Lawyer Vs. Public Defender

1. Private Criminal Defense Lawyer Vs. Public Defender

When you are charged with a crime, you have the right to legal representation. If you cannot afford to hire a private defense lawyer, the court can appoint a public defender. One of the first decisions you will need to make in your defense is whether you will request a public defender in Indianapolis or hire a private defense attorney. 

Most public defenders in the state are good attorneys. However, they cannot choose the cases they handle and often have very large caseloads. This means a public defender will have less time to devote to your case and may have little or no experience with the specific charges you are facing. 

To qualify for a public defender, you will need to demonstrate you cannot afford to hire your own attorney. The court will ask for details about your financial situation.

A private defense attorney doesn’t just have additional time and resources; they select their own cases and tend to have areas of specialty. You can choose a lawyer who focuses on similar criminal cases after reviewing their qualifications, experience, and approach. 

2. Experience With Similar Cases and Specialization

What is the first thing to consider when hiring a defense lawyer? How much experience they have with similar cases. Because criminal law and legal precedent are complex, many criminal defense attorneys specialize in certain criminal charges like DUI/OWI or white collar crimes. Even if the attorney does not specialize in the type of charge you are facing, they should have extensive experience with similar cases. 

Note: if you are facing federal charges, you will need a federal criminal defense lawyer admitted to practice in federal court. 

Experience is even more important with federal cases. There are major differences between how the federal government and the state will handle a case. These differences include investigation and arrest procedures, court procedures, sentencing, and post-conviction options. 

Not every defense attorney will be qualified to handle both types of criminal cases. 

3. Local Experience and Reputation

When possible, hire a defense attorney with local courtroom experience. Some law firms advertise attorneys licensed in every state, but these attorneys may not have local connections or knowledge of local procedures. 

While the same laws apply throughout the state, courtroom and prosecutorial procedures vary by region. A local criminal defense lawyer will know if the county’s District Attorney has a policy to refuse plea bargaining with certain offenses, for example. The lawyer will also know which prosecutors are more likely to negotiate early in your case or wait until shortly before trial. 

A local defense attorney will be familiar with the area’s law enforcement, many of the officers, and how they perform in court. 

You should also check the attorney’s reputation and make sure they are well respected in the local community. You can read reviews from past clients and check if the attorney has a disciplinary history with the Indiana Disciplinary Commission. The Roll of Indiana Attorneys is an online database of attorneys in good standing with the state. 

4. Trial Experience

Many people are surprised to learn that some lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom. The truth is the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea agreements before going to trial. 

In 2021, more than 106,000 criminal cases in Indiana were resolved through admissions or guilty pleas. Only 3,078 cases were disposed of by bench trial or a trial by judge instead of jury. A mere 719 cases were disposed of by a jury trial. 

Less than 5% of criminal cases in Indiana and under 2% of federal criminal cases proceed to trial. 

While your case may be unlikely to go before a jury, you want a lawyer who is prepared for this possibility. Presenting a compelling defense to a jury is very different than negotiating with a prosecutor. An attorney with trial experience will understand how to present your case to a jury and when it’s best to make a deal with the prosecutor rather than going to trial. 

5. Law Enforcement Or Prosecution Experience

Most criminal defense attorneys do not have experience trying cases from the other side. A former prosecutor will understand how the other side determines criminal charges and builds their case. Experience as a former prosecutor can be an advantage by helping your lawyer anticipate what the prosecution will use in your case. This insight can also help your attorney predict how the prosecution is likely to respond to any particular defense strategy. 

Prior law enforcement experience can also be beneficial. In particular, this insight can help your lawyer recognize potential flaws in police procedure that may strengthen your case. Their experience may be helpful in overcoming the increased credibility given to police testimony by juries. 

6. Fee Structure

Make sure you understand how the attorneys’ fees and expenses are handled before hiring a defense lawyer. Generally, criminal defense attorneys charge either a flat fee or an hourly rate. 

A flat fee structure is often used for less complex cases when the lawyer can estimate the total amount of work upfront. This type of fee can cover the entire case, regardless of how long it takes to resolve.

Hourly billing, on the other hand, charges for the actual time the attorney spends on your case. This method is more common in cases that are expected to be complex or involve a trial. The lawyer will bill for hours spent on various activities related to your case, such as research, court appearances, and document preparation.

In both cases, a retainer is common. This is an amount paid upfront that the attorney bills against as they work on your case. A flat fee structure may involve a retainer and payments spread throughout the case. 

Defense attorney fees vary depending on the type of case and complexity. A misdemeanor charge will likely have lower fees than a felony charge. There may also be different fees for pre-charge representation and arraignment versus trial preparations, bench trials, and jury trials, for instance. 

Consult an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Lawyer Regarding Your Case 

If you have been arrested or believe you will be charged with a crime, it’s important to seek legal representation right away. The sooner you hire a lawyer, the easier it will be for them to protect your rights and build your defense. The longer you wait, the harder it may be to find a qualified criminal defense lawyer, and the higher the attorneys’ fees may be. 

Contact Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers today to schedule a consultation with an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney. Give us a call at (317) 759-2599. We have more than 100 years of combined experience with a legal team that includes a former prosecutor and a former police officer. We will help you explore your options and discuss what we can do to help you.