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How Do Criminal Defense Attorneys Get Paid?

If you are like most people facing criminal charges, you no doubt wonder about the financial cost of hiring an attorney. While everyone wants the best legal counsel possible when they are facing potential jail time, the reality is that some defense lawyers cost more than others. 

Asking about an attorney’s fee is a vital question during an initial consultation. Every lawyer addresses fees differently, and asking up front can prevent any misunderstandings later on in the process. 

The attorneys at Gerald Miller are always up front about our legal fees. To discuss your legal options, schedule your free consultation today. 

Types of Legal Fees

In general, lawyers charge fees in one of two ways: hourly rates or fixed fees. Many attorneys have an hourly rate they charge and bill their clients for every minute they work on their case. For criminal defense attorneys, hourly billing is more common for complex cases like murder or white collar crime. 

Lawyers that bill by the hour typically charge a retainer. A retainer requires the client to pay a portion of their fees up front. These funds are held by the attorney, who will periodically deduct their legal fees from the account. When the retainer runs low, the lawyer will require the client to add more money. This ensures the attorney does not perform legal work that they are ultimately never paid for. 

Flat fees are also common among criminal defense lawyers. Attorneys are more likely to rely on these for simple cases like DWI arrests or traffic tickets. Most lawyers require the full fee to be paid up front before taking on a case. Often, attorneys will use a set of shifting flat fees depending on the complexity of the case. For example, a lawyer might charge one price if they negotiate a plea early on in the process. They might then charge a much higher price if the case goes to trial. 

Factors That Can Affect an Attorney’s Fee

There are multiple factors that go into what a lawyer might charge in a criminal defense case. These fees typically vary depending on the complexity of a case. An attorney will charge much more for a murder defense than they will a minor possession charge, for example. 

Lawyers with more experience often charge a higher fee. After years of building up a reputation and a client base, these attorneys can afford to charge a higher rate without fear of losing business. 

Legal fees also vary by geography. Lawyers that have to travel farther from home are more likely to charge more than attorneys that take a case in a courthouse that is only steps away from their office. 

Given these factors, it is impossible to perfectly estimate what a defense might cost. Thankfully, most defense lawyers offer free consultations and will happily answer questions about their fee structure. 

Why Hire a Private Attorney?

Every person facing the prospect of incarceration has the right to a lawyer. For individuals that lack the resources to hire an attorney, the state will provide a public defender. With that in mind, why bother hiring a lawyer if free legal counsel is available? When your freedom is at stake, every advantage you can gain during your case is worth taking. A private attorney provides a substantial advantage over court-appointed counsel. 

Public defenders are typically qualified and experienced lawyers. The problem with relying on these attorneys is that they are responsible for an enormous caseload. Given the overwhelming number of cases they are responsible for, it is impossible for them to give every case the attention it deserves.

Private criminal lawyers have the time and resources necessary to dedicate to each case. By working with a private defense attorney, you should have much greater access to your legal counsel and can expect a much more robust defense at trial. 

Given what is at stake, it is vital that you take the steps necessary to improve your chances of a favorable outcome. Hiring a defense lawyer represents your best bet for an acquittal or a dismissal. 

Discuss your Case with Gerald Miller Today

Never assume you cannot afford a strong defense. The attorneys of Gerald Miller are proud to work with our clients to ensure they are able to fight back against the charges against them. To discuss your legal options, call (612) 440-4608 right away to schedule your free consultation

About the author

Kyle Dreger

Kyle Dreger is a skilled DUI/DWI and Criminal Defense lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. Kyle has received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is also a professionally trained basketball player.

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