Understanding Criminal Lawyer Costs: Average Retainer Fees and Factors to Consider
Last Updated: June 15, 2023
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If you've been accused of a crime, then it's probably in your best interest to hire a criminal lawyer. Criminal defense lawyers ensure that the basic legal rights of the accused are upheld and provide guidance through the complexities of the criminal justice system. You may be concerned about high criminal attorney fees. However, not hiring a lawyer could result in a significant loss of freedom. Below you'll find useful information about what criminal lawyers do and how much they cost.
Criminal Lawyer Average Costs #
A number of factors go into determining the cost of a criminal lawyer, including:
- The jurisdiction
- The complexity of the case
- The experience and quality of the criminal law attorney
- Whether you enter a guilty plea, accept a plea agreement, or take the case to trail
- The lawyer's billing method
With that in mind, most criminal law attorneys charge either a flat fee (for the entire case) or an hourly fee.
If billed by the hour, you can expect to pay anywhere from around $200 to $400 or more.
The flat fee amount depends on the case's complexity and it's important to keep in mind that most attorneys want a retainer (a portion of the total amount paid up-front).
For misdemeanor representation, you might pay a retainer fee of around $2,500 to $5,000.
The retainer for felony representation $5,000 to $15,000 but could easily be two or three times that amount for series crimes.
Although most criminal lawyers offer a free initial consultation, some may charge you a $100 to $250 consultation fee.
Note that many criminal lawyers charge for expenses such as photocopying, research, travel, the use of a paralegal, and time spent corresponding with you over the phone or by email. In addition, the majority of lawyers have a minimum billing increment of around 10-15 minutes. For example, even if you only engage in a 5-minute phone call with your attorney but he or she has a 10 minute minimum billing increment, you would be billed for the full 10 minutes.
In addition to criminal lawyer fees, there are other charges associated with a criminal case, such as:
- Court fees
- Paying for investigators and expert witnesses (About $2,500 to $7,500+)
Because billing can vary considerably based on the lawyer, the case, and other circumstances, it's critical that you understand the billing method and what is and isn't covered by the fee. Obtain a fee agreement document, read it carefully, and clarify any misunderstandings before signing.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer #
In the most basic sense, criminal lawyers act as an advocate and advisor to a defendant (somebody accused with a crime). That is, they ensure that you remain innocent until proven guilty. In practical terms, this means fulfilling a number of responsibilities including the following:
- Meet with you to discuss the case and help you understand the charges filed, their implications, and your options moving forward
- Negotiate bail
- Investigate the case and collect evidence
- Prepare and file motions and pleadings with the court
- Negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution to try and obtain a dismissal or the best possible sentence
- Gather witnesses and hire investigators and experts for trial
- Produce evidence, cross examining witnesses, and attempt to discredit the prosecution's evidence
- Assist with the appeals process in the event of a conviction
Do I Have the Right to a Criminal Defense Attorney? #
Yes, if you are facing criminal charges, you generally have the right to legal representation. This right is often enshrined in laws and constitutions of many countries to ensure a fair trial process. It is commonly known as the right to counsel or the right to a defense attorney.
Hiring a private defense lawyer offers the following advantages:
- Choice and control over selecting an attorney.
- More personalized attention and time dedicated to your case.
- Expertise and specialization in specific areas of criminal law.
- Better accessibility and direct communication.
- Access to a network of resources and support.
Public defenders, while important, may have heavier caseloads and limited resources. Ultimately, the decision depends on your circumstances and preferences.
Watch: What To Do If You're Wrongly Arrested for a Crime #
Watch this video to find out what to do if you have been falsely accused of a crime.