25 Sep 23

How much will a criminal defense lawyer cost for my case in New York?

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Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 05:24 pm

How Much Will a Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost for My Case in New York?

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer in New York can be an expensive endeavor, but it is often a necessary investment when facing criminal charges. The costs vary widely depending on factors like the severity of the charges, the experience of the attorney, and how much legal work is required for the case. This article will provide an overview of average costs and pricing structures so you can get an idea of what to expect when hiring a criminal defense lawyer in New York.

Average Costs

In New York, the average cost of a criminal defense lawyer ranges from $2,000 to $100,000+ for a case taken to trial. However, most cases do not go to trial. For pre-trial work alone, average costs are:

  • $3,000 – $7,500 for a misdemeanor
  • $7,500 – $25,000 for a non-violent felony
  • $25,000+ for a violent felony

According to surveys, typical hourly rates for criminal defense lawyers in New York range from $200-$500 per hour. Rates on the higher end are typically charged by attorneys with decades of experience or those who handle high-profile or complex cases. Attorneys who are newer to practice often charge rates on the lower end of the spectrum.

What Impacts the Cost

There are several key factors that influence how much you can expect to pay for a criminal defense lawyer in New York:

  • Type of Charges – More serious felonies or complex federal cases cost more to defend than minor misdemeanors.
  • Experience of the Lawyer – Attorneys with more experience or specialty expertise often charge higher rates.
  • Reputation of the Law Firm – Large, prestigious firms cost more than small, independent practices.
  • Location – Rates are typically higher in large metro areas like New York City.
  • Amount of Work Required – Cases that go to trial or have extensive motions require more lawyer time.

As you consider different attorneys, get quotes that account for these factors so you can accurately compare costs.

Pricing Structures

Criminal defense attorneys use different pricing models – it’s important to understand how each works when evaluating lawyers to hire:

Hourly Billing

With hourly billing, you pay an agreed-upon hourly rate for the time the lawyer works on your case. Rates often range from $200-$500+ per hour. You’ll receive regular invoices outlining the work done and fees accrued. The benefit is you only pay for work performed, but the downside is the total cost is unpredictable. Hourly billing is most common for pre-trial work.

Flat Fees

For a flat fee, the lawyer charges one fixed price for handling an entire case or specific parts of it. This provides cost certainty but can be less flexible. Common flat fees are:

  • $2,000-$5,000 for a misdemeanor taken through trial
  • $5,000-$15,000 for a basic felony taken through trial
  • $15,000-$50,000+ for serious or complex felonies taken through trial

Flat fees just for pre-trial work are also common.


A retainer is a upfront lump sum payment that acts as a credit to be billed against later. The lawyer deducts their hourly fees from the retainer as work is performed. Common retainer amounts are $3,000-$10,000 for a misdemeanor case and $15,000-$100,000+ for a felony, depending on the charges. The unused portion of the retainer is refunded to you if any remains at the end of the case.

Pro Bono & Low-Cost Defense

If you cannot afford a private criminal defense lawyer, there are some options for free or reduced-cost representation in New York:

  • The court can appoint you a public defender if you qualify based on income eligibility guidelines.
  • Some non-profit legal aid organizations like New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) provide free or low-cost defense for those who qualify.
  • Look for law school clinics that may take cases at no cost under supervision of professors and law students.
  • Search for pro bono programs through bar associations and legal groups like the New York State Bar Association.

Questions to Ask When Hiring an Attorney

To find the best criminal defense lawyer for your case and budget, be sure to ask these key questions:

  • What is your experience handling cases similar to mine?
  • What pricing models do you offer? What are your rates/fees?
  • What is included in your fees? What could cause them to increase?
  • How do you keep clients updated on costs throughout a case?
  • Can you provide references from past clients I can contact?
  • Do you offer payment plans or options for those with financial limitations?

Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. While costs are a major factor, focus your search on lawyers with the experience and track record to provide the strongest defense. Thoroughly understand fee structures and get cost estimates upfront so there are no surprises down the road.


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