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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:57 pm
Finding Yourself in Legal Trouble? How to Pick the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in New Jersey
Uh oh – you got arrested or charged with a crime in New Jersey. That sinking feeling in your gut is totally normal. Take a deep breath though, because the good news is, you have rights under the law. And a really good criminal defense attorney can help protect those rights, fight the charges, and get you the best possible outcome.
But how do you find the right lawyer for your specific case when there are so many attorneys out there? I’ve defended people facing criminal charges in New Jersey courts for over 15 years now, so let me give you my insider tips on what to look for when hiring a criminal defense lawyer.
#1 – Find Someone with Deep Experience in Criminal Defense
You wouldn’t go to a podiatrist for heart surgery, right? Same idea here. You want an attorney who focuses specifically on criminal defense day in and day out. For example, here at my firm, criminal law is all we do – no divorces or slip and falls. And we handle major felonies as well as misdemeanors and municipal court violations.
Look for a lawyer who has represented clients facing charges similar to yours. If you’re dealing with a drug case, find someone with lots of drug crime experience. If it’s a sex offense charge, get a sex crimes specialist. Check out the lawyer’s website and see what specific areas they claim to focus on.
#2 – Make Sure They Regularly Handle Cases in Your County
Each county’s prosecutors and judges have their own personalities and quirks. As they say, “all politics is local” – and so is New Jersey criminal law. An attorney who is a whiz at working with officials in Essex or Hudson County might flounder down in Cape May.
So when researching lawyers, look for ones who tout their experience in your particular county – especially if you’re facing charges outside the major metro areas. Reaching out to [County Bar Association] is a good way to find well-regarded local criminal defense attorneys.
#3 – Don’t Just Look at Years of Experience – Check Case Results
I see this mistake all the time – people assume the lawyer who has been practicing law the longest must be the best. But when it comes to criminal defense, quality beats quantity. I’d take an attorney with 5 years experience who regularly gets charges dismissed and wins trials over a 30 year veteran who pleads out every case.
You want someone aggressive who will fight tooth and nail for you in court. Comb through a lawyer’s website for mentions of past case victories. Check online court records to see their win/loss rate at trial. And don’t hesitate to ask about case results during your consultation – any good attorney should be happy to brag talk about their record of success!
#4 – Make Sure You Connect with Your Lawyer Personally
Chemistry matters when you’re putting your future in another person’s hands. During your initial consultation, pay attention to how comfortable you feel talking with the attorney. Do you feel rushed? Judged? Or do they listen with empathy and make you feel heard?
Comfort and trust are crucial since criminal defense lawyers often have to deal with intensely private issues. If you’re going through something traumatic like sexual assault allegations, you want an attorney you feel safe opening up to.
And don’t downplay the importance of simply liking your lawyer as a human being. You’ll be spending lots of stressful time together in courtrooms and meeting rooms – it helps if you don’t find them totally annoying.
#5 – Understand How Criminal Defense Fees Work in New Jersey
Most criminal defense attorneys work on a flat fee or hourly rate basis rather than taking a cut of settlement money. And New Jersey fortunately has strong protections ensuring people’s right to counsel. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you can apply for a public defender.
However, having a private attorney allows you to choose who represents you rather than just getting whoever is assigned. Some law firms offer payment plans or allow you to put legal fees on a credit card. Ask each lawyer you consult with about flexible payment options.
Finding the right criminal defense attorney takes research, but it’s time very well spent. An experienced lawyer who believes in you and your case can make all the difference. With the right advocate in your corner, you can get charges reduced or even dismissed.
So don’t panic or feel defeated. You have power when you know your rights. And in New Jersey’s courts, having a tough, smart criminal defense lawyer at your side ensures your rights will be protected. Reach out anytime if you have questions – I’m always happy to help