27 Nov 23

Tips for Saving Money on Your Criminal Defense Lawyer in New Jersey

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Last Updated on: 5th December 2023, 08:36 pm


Tips for Saving Money on Your Criminal Defense Lawyer in New Jersey

Finding yourself in need of a criminal defense lawyer can be an incredibly stressful and anxious time. The costs associated with quality legal representation often run high, leaving many wondering how they can afford the help they desperately need. While it’s imperative to find an attorney you trust to handle your case properly, there are ways to reduce the financial burden without sacrificing the quality of your defense. With some savvy tips and an open dialogue with prospective lawyers, you can find an affordable solution for your situation.

Shop Around and Ask About Payment Plans

The first step is always to shop around and meet with several criminal defense lawyers before deciding on one. Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, allowing you to get a feel for their experience and compatibility before having to pay anything. Come prepared with questions about their background, track record with cases similar to yours, and overall legal philosophy. Also ask about their payment structures – some lawyers charge flat fees upfront, others bill by the hour, and some offer flexible payment plans. If finances are a concern, bring this up directly and see if they can work with you on rates or installment plans. Many lawyers understand the realities of legal costs and are willing to find solutions. With multiple consultations under your belt, you’ll have a good sense of fair rates in your area and options that fit your budget.

See If You Qualify for a Public Defender

Though often overburdened and lacking resources, public defenders provide legal services at no personal cost if you qualify based on financial need. Each state uses federal poverty guidelines to determine if your income and assets fall below the threshold to have a public defender assigned to your case. Note that qualifying thresholds are surprisingly low – a single person making less than $12,760 annually or owning less than $2,000 in assets would likely qualify. If you’re unemployed, disabled, or have extenuating circumstances like high medical bills or several dependents, definitely apply and see if you meet the criteria. Public defenders get a bad rap but are often highly skilled at their jobs. Don’t write them off before exploring this cost-free option.

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Seek Out Payment Plans

If you find a lawyer you connect with but their rates are still daunting, directly ask if they offer payment plans or would be willing to structure installments for you. Many lawyers allow clients to pay a portion of their fee upfront, then make monthly payments over 3-12 months to pay off the balance. They understand that legal help is a necessity, not a luxury, and that clients living paycheck to paycheck need flexibility. By breaking up larger fees into smaller chunks, you can get the representation you need without the impossible burden of a huge one-time cost. Lawyers want to get paid eventually, so propose a reasonable payment schedule within your means and many will happily oblige.

Use Legal Aid Societies

Every state has legal aid societies that provide free or low-cost legal services to disadvantaged groups. If you’re a senior citizen, veteran, domestic violence victim, or meet other qualifying criteria, consider contacting your local legal aid office to see if they can offer full or partial assistance. Their services are limited and availability varies by jurisdiction, but it’s worth exploring if you fall into any eligible demographics. At minimum they can provide guidance on navigating the criminal justice system yourself or point you to other affordable resources. Don’t let pride stop you from seeking out their help – it’s what these non-profits are designed for.

See If Your Charges Can Be Reduced

One of the best ways to reduce legal costs is to bring down the charges and complexity of your case through plea bargaining. An experienced lawyer knows how to negotiate with prosecutors to get charges dismissed or brought down to lesser offenses. They’ll tally up the evidence, assess any police errors, and leverage their relationships to put you in the most favorable position. Even reducing a felony to a misdemeanor can drastically lower legal fees by simplifying the case. The less court appearances and complexity involved, the less time the lawyer has to bill. Let your attorney do their job negotiating – it could save you big.

Ask About Pro Bono Work

Some private attorneys take on a few pro bono cases per year for free or almost free. This allows them to give back while also gaining experience and exposure. Ask lawyers you meet with if they accept any pro bono clients or would consider taking your case at a steep discount. Be open about your financial situation and sell them on the value it would bring their practice. Many will say no, but some will say yes or work out minimal “good faith” payments. It never hurts to politely inquire about their pro bono policies – you might get lucky.