What is a fair price for a very good Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer?
By Loren M. Dickstein, Michigan Criminal Defense
Depending on the seriousness of the crime you are charged with, the most it will ever cost you is your life. Being convicted of a crime can result in the loss of your very freedom. It can also cost your career, your house, family relationships, reputation, professional license, educational opportunities and affect your entire future. A good lawyer can help you; however, trying to figure out what a fair price for a very good Michigan criminal defense lawyer can be scary and confusing.
Ultimately what you are compensating a lawyer for is his or her time, experience, reputation and skill. When I agree to take on a new case, I take on a very personal responsibility. That responsibility is one I do not assume lightly. Often my client’s freedom and lives are entrusted to my care. The only way I can sleep at night is with the knowledge that I have done everything possible to ensure the best possible outcome of their cases.
While unfortunately it would be improper for me to list quotes without knowing something about your case, I can tell you the cost of giving me a call to talk about your case…absolutely FREE, so take it advantage of it.
Most people don’t plan to be charged with a crime, and that is why I am committed to making quality legal representation as affordable as possible. I handle the majority of criminal cases on a flat fee. In other words, you do not have to worry about being charged by the hour or for each-and-every phone call. We agree to a set amount for the representation in your case in most matters. This gives you the peace of mind that if your case becomes more complicated than anticipated, or drawn out for any reason, you are not going to be financially drained or left without representation.
What is a free consultation?
A free consultation does not mean a free opportunity to get legal advice. I get calls from many people every day asking if I can tell them what they should do or if I can give advice to their lawyers. I appreciate that a person charged with a crime will likely be very nervous and will want to call a nationally ranked criminal trial lawyer like myself for advice. This being said, the purpose of a consultation is to make an assessment if you want to hire a lawyer. It is an opportunity for you to inquire about a lawyer’s experience, defense philosophy, trial record, and knowledge. It is also an opportunity for the lawyer, assuming he or she is reputable, to assess whether they are the right criminal attorney to help the prospective client.
Should you go over all the facts with a lawyer during a free consultation? Probably not. Going over all the facts of your case with a lawyer during a free consultation is probably not in anyone’s best interest and it is probably not necessary. Once an attorney is retained, he will want to get a full history and recitation of all the relevant facts. For purposes of determining if the lawyer can help, knowing all the facts is more than what is necessary. It is also important to point out that the client is frequently not aware of all the “facts.” Although the client may know best what actually happened, other relevant factors are what allegations are made, what alleged statements are attributed to the client, what are the police or other law enforcement officers claiming (many times falsely), and much, much more. The facts don’t determine which lawyer is best, the best Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer can deal with the facts…no matter what they may be. The key in a consultation is to find the lawyer you feel would be best able to protect you and get you the best possible outcome (whether that is an amazing plea bargain or an extremely good sentence). No matter what the facts of your case are, the lawyer will have to deal with them. A great criminal attorney will get the best outcome possible whether the facts are great or terrible.
Can a lawyer in a criminal case charge a contingent fee?
Many people who are charged with a felony or misdemeanor charge often want to find a lawyer who will not charge them unless they “win.” This is called a contingency fee. The Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct specifically prohibits entering into an arrangement for charging or collecting a contingency fee in a criminal matter. Essentially, when you hire a lawyer relative to a criminal charge, you are paying for that person’s time, experience and reputation and not the outcome. A lawyer who agrees to accept a “tip” or extra fee in exchange for a promise or guarantee of a particular outcome is willing to violate the ethical rules that govern their profession and should be avoided at all costs.
Can a lawyer promise or guarantee a particular result?
If you hear the words, “I promise you won’t do jail time…,” find someone else. Giving a promise or guarantee is unethical and probably illegal. It is fraud, plain and simple. No lawyer, regardless of experience or relationships with judges or prosecutors, can guarantee anything reliably. If giving a guarantee or a promise is unethical, who do so many criminal attorneys do it? Desperation and greed, plain and simple. When people tell me that another lawyer is promising no jail, no prison, no probation or some other result, I tell them to get the guarantee in writing from the criminal defense lawyer. What do you think happens? The lawyer refuses. If a result is a certainty, the lawyer should be willing to put it in writing. They won’t do it, they never do. Giving a promise in exchange for a legal fee is dishonest, unethical and deceptive.
Do I need an attorney from Oakland County, Wayne County or Macomb County?
Many people who are charged with a crime anywhere in Michigan often times feel that they have to hire an Oakland County Criminal Attorney or one who is from Wayne or Macomb under the theory that the lawyers in the tri-county area are most experienced and considered the best in the State of Michigan. Considering the amount of felony and misdemeanor charges in those areas, the level of legal representation is understandably considered by many to be of a very high caliber. This being said, it is not necessarily the case that a lawyer in another part of the state may not be an excellent attorney. It may be best to speak to a local lawyer and a lawyer from Oakland County for example and then make the decision as to who would be best for the case. The attorney that is going to be able to attain the best possible resolution in a case is NOT a local lawyer but the best lawyer. A great attorney will be known throughout the state no matter where their office is located. The top criminal lawyers in Michigan routinely practice in courts throughout the state.
“So how much is a fair fee in a criminal case?”
The unfortunate answer is, “it depends.” There are many lawyers who advertise a set flat fee for all kinds of cases including criminal, bankruptcy, wills, trusts, bankruptcy and more. Frankly, this is a sign of a desperate lawyer who cares more about the quantity of his or her cases rather than the quality of representation or the results obtained. This is a really bad sign for the client who enters into a lawyer/client relationship with one of these restaurant menu style lawyers. For example, client on an OWI may just want a fair plea bargain and a lenient sentence or a client on an OWI may have been stopped illegally, tested by a noncertified Datamaster operator and not given Miranda warnings. The first prospective client’s case will be far less time consuming and the second prospective client’s case is far more complex. What if a lawyer who promises to handle all OWI or DUI cases gets retained by these two clients? The first client will be overcharged and the second client will get sold out because the lawyer will be dishonest and claim that the case should not be fought.
A lawyer should be willing to meet with you in person and discuss your case with you in sufficient detail to be able to determine how much work the case will require and structure a fee that is fair and reasonable. Lawyers that routinely quote fees on the telephone should frequently be avoided because it is not a good sign that he or she is willing to fully consider what it will take to achieve the best possible outcome.
Do Criminal Defense Attorney’s take Payment Plans?
Many lawyers will offer a payment plan of some type. There are lawyers who agree to take monthly or weekly payments and some lawyers will take a retainer (an amount required to initiate legal services), and then work out a payment plan for the balance of the fees. Unfortunately for those with very limited resources, the busiest, most successful criminal defense lawyers frequently have the most limited payment plans. It doesn’t hurt or cost anything to ask though so when you have an initial consultation, inquire about how fees can be paid and if a payment plan is available.
The bottom line…
The bottom line is that if you or your loved one is charged with a felony or misdemeanor or there is an allegation of criminal activity, you want the best possible Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer you can get. Most times in life, you get what you pay for. A court-appointed attorney is free and they are frequently forced to make a living based on quantity rather than quality. This goes for “Yellow Page Lawyers,” “Plea Lawyers,” and lawyers who charge by one-size-fits-all legal fees as well. The bottom line is to try to find a great lawyer and meet with him or her to see if you can find a way to afford their services. Although the investment in a great attorney can be difficult, it is often the best investment a person can make. What is your future, life, family, job, and reputation worth? What will it cost you to be represented by a lawyer that will fail to achieve the result you deserve or be unsuccessful in attaining the best possible outcome? Too much. What is the value of having someone by your side who has the ability, experience, and aggressiveness to protect you? Priceless.
Mr.Loren M. Dickstein
LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.