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How much does a criminal defense lawyer cost?

How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost?

Getting arrested or charged with a crime can be an incredibly stressful and frightening experience. Many people facing criminal charges wonder if they can afford a lawyer to defend them. The cost of a criminal defense lawyer can vary quite a bit depending on your specific charges, location, lawyer experience and other factors.

This article will provide an overview of how much you can expect to pay for a criminal defense attorney to handle your case. We’ll look at typical hourly rates, average flat fees for common crimes, factors that impact costs and options if you cannot afford a lawyer.

Average Hourly Rates for Criminal Defense Lawyers

Many criminal defense attorneys bill by the hour. This means you pay for the actual time they spend working on your case. Tasks they may bill for include:

  • Meeting and communicating with you
  • Reviewing evidence and case documents
  • Conducting legal research
  • Drafting motions and filings
  • Attending hearings and the trial

According to surveys, the average hourly rate for a criminal defense lawyer is around $200-$350 per hour. However, rates can vary significantly based on factors like:

  • Experience level – Lawyers with many years of criminal defense work often charge over $300/hour.
  • Reputation – Well-known lawyers can charge up to $500/hour or more.
  • Location – Rates are typically highest in major cities like New York or Los Angeles.
  • Type of crime – More serious felonies often command higher rates.

While an inexperienced lawyer may charge $150/hour, it’s not uncommon for top criminal defense attorneys to charge $400 or even $500/hour, especially for serious or complex cases. The key is finding a lawyer with rates you can afford, but who still has the skills to effectively defend you.

Average Flat Fees by Type of Crime

Some criminal defense lawyers charge a flat fee for certain types of routine cases, rather than billing by the hour. This provides cost certainty upfront. Common flat fees include:

  • DUI/DWI – $1500-$5000
  • Misdemeanor drug possession – $1000-$3000
  • Assault – $2000-$7500
  • Theft/larceny – $2000-$5000
  • Probation violation – $1000-$2500

For more serious felonies like murder, rape or robbery, most lawyers will bill hourly rather than set a flat fee. Rates for complex federal cases like fraud or embezzlement will also typically be billed at an hourly rate.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

Factors That Impact Criminal Defense Costs

The overall cost of a criminal defense lawyer can be influenced by many factors, including:

  • Your location – Major metro areas have the highest average rates.
  • Lawyer experience – Decades of criminal defense work often equates to higher rates.
  • Reputation of lawyer – Well-known lawyers or law firms cost more.
  • Type of crime – More serious crimes often have higher costs.
  • Number of charges – Multiple charges mean more work and higher fees.
  • Stage of case – Early plea deals save time and money vs. going to trial.

The complexity of your case will also influence costs. Complicated cases with lots of evidence, multiple codefendants, expert witnesses and lengthy trials will entail more attorney work and higher fees.

Can I Get a Public Defender If I Can’t Afford a Lawyer?

If you cannot afford a criminal defense lawyer, you may qualify for a court-appointed public defender to represent you at no cost. To get a public defender, you will need to show proof that you cannot afford private counsel. This may include:

  • Tax returns and bank statements showing your income and assets
  • Pay stubs or other evidence of current income
  • Documentation of expenses like rent, utilities, childcare, etc.

If you qualify, a public defender from the local Public Defender’s Office will be appointed to your case. Keep in mind public defenders typically handle a high volume of cases. You may also spend less time with a public defender vs. a private lawyer.

However, public defenders are often highly skilled at defending the types of routine criminal cases they handle day in and day out. In many cases, the representation you get from an experienced public defender may be nearly as good as from a private attorney.

Can I Pay a Lawyer Over Time?

If you don’t have the funds to hire a private criminal defense lawyer upfront, some options to pay over time include:

  • Payment plans – Many lawyers allow you to divide legal fees into monthly installments.
  • Credit cards – Some lawyers accept credit cards which allows you to pay over time.
  • Borrow money – You may be able to borrow from 401(k), home equity line or friends/family.
  • Legal defense funds – Special funds exist to help pay legal fees for certain crimes.

If you will be paying a lawyer over time, be sure to get the details of the payment schedule and terms in writing. You want to avoid any surprises or confusion down the road.

Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer About Fees

When meeting with criminal defense lawyers, you should ask questions to understand how they charge fees and what your total costs may realistically be. Questions to ask include:

  • Do you charge by the hour, a flat fee, or some other structure?
  • What is your hourly rate if you bill by the hour?
  • How much experience do you have with cases similar to mine?
  • What are all the costs and expenses beyond your legal fees?
  • If billing hourly, what is your best estimate for the total hours needed?
  • Could my case potentially go to trial and how might that impact costs?

A lawyer should be upfront about their rates and experience. They should also give you a realistic, good faith estimate of total fees based on the specifics of your case. This helps avoid any surprises down the road.

Bottom Line on Criminal Defense Lawyer Costs

The cost to hire a criminal defense lawyer can vary greatly based on your charges, location, lawyer experience and other factors. For less serious misdemeanors, fees often start around $1000-$2000. More serious or complex felonies can cost $5000 and up.

While every case is different, some typical average ranges are:

  • DUI – $1500-$5000
  • Misdemeanor drug possession – $1000-$3000
  • Assault – $2000-$7500
  • Theft/larceny – $2000-$5000

Be sure to ask lawyers about their rates and get an estimate for total fees on your specific case. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may qualify for a free public defender.

With the right legal representation and strategic defense, you can potentially achieve the best possible outcome for your criminal charges.


[1] https://www.tsiglerlaw.com/new-york-criminal-lawyer-cost-in-new-york/

[2] https://www.lawfletcher.com/Fees.aspx

[3] https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/how-much-does-a-criminal-defense-attorney-cost-61222

[4] https://www.thumbtack.com/p/criminal-defense-attorney-cost

[5] https://stengellaw.com/how-much-does-a-criminal-defense-attorney-cost-nyc/

[6] https://thelawman.net/blog/how-much-will-a-lawyer-cost-me/

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