The Associated Press reported today:
“The Supreme Court seemed reluctant to allow criminals to ask for a plea bargain after they’ve been sentenced, despite claims from two that their lawyers erred by either not mentioning the plea offer or advising them incorrectly on the law.
The high court heard two appeals overturning convictions of a drunken driver and a man who shot a woman as she was running away. The drunken driver’s lawyer didn’t tell him about an offered plea deal, while the shooter’s lawyer mistakenly told him that he couldn’t be convicted of murder since he shot below the waist.
Both men got years in prison, instead of lesser time that plea agreements would have brought them. But justices questioned whether reopening negotiations after sentencing would be “unworkable” and unfair to prosecutors. Justices will rule next year.”
People frequently ask if they need to hire the best criminal lawyer or retain a good defense attorney when there are “affordable” lawyers, payment plan attorneys, or court appointed attorneys. Well…if you care anything about your future, your ability to earn an income, your liberty, your children and your reputation, the answer clearly is that you need to hire the best criminal defense lawyer you can. If you go bargain hunting and let price be your primary consideration when hiring a criminal attorney, you may find yourself in the same position as the poor defendants whom the Michigan Supreme Court is turning it’s back on in the Associated Press article referenced above.
I get a call at least once per day where someone asks me something like the following: “I hired a lawyer who gave me a good price but I got screwed because he didn’t fight for me, didn’t talk with me and didn’t know how to get the best result. What can you do to help me?” Unfortunately, helping a person after another criminal law attorney (or someone claiming to be one) completely screws up his or her case is much more difficult than helping that person from the inception of their case.
What lesson can be learned from the Michigan Supreme Court’s apparent reluctance to help those defendants who were victims of ineffective assistance of counsel? Hire a lawyer who:
1. Practices exclusively criminal defense work.
2. Minimum of 15 years experience.
3. Highly rated on lawyer review websites like www.avvo.com
4. Displays a professional appearance (personally and office).
5. No history of professional discipline by the State Bar of Michigan.
6. Demonstrates a clear proficiency with the area of criminal law in question.
7. Exudes confidence that is credible and not put on or farfetched.
8. Willing to be patient, understanding and empathetic.
9. Maintains a professional website that includes information about the lawyer you can review prior to meeting with him or her.
10. Gives a free consultation (never hire a lawyer without meeting him or her or who quotes legal fees over the telephone).