HOW ARE CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS PAID?
An individual that has been charged with a crime has the Constitutional right to counsel, i.e. right to be represented by an attorney. At a person’s initial court appearance anyone charged with a crime will be informed that he can hire his own attorney, request a court appointed attorney (i.e. public defender), or represent himself.
Some criminal defense attorneys charge a consultation fee. This is a fee charged when talking to a potential client about the client’s case before the attorney has agreed to represent the client. Many criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations for certain types of cases. If you are trying to make an appointment to speak with an attorney about your case be sure to ask if there is a charge for the consultation.
Setting Attorney Fees
Generally, attorneys are required to charge reasonable fees. There are a variety of factors that attorneys consider when determining their fees:
- Difficulty and complexity of the case;
- Time and effort required;
- Local customary fees in the geographical area; and/or
- The attorney’s ability and reputation;
Types of Fees
For criminal cases, attorneys are not allowed to use contingent fees (payment that is conditioned on winning or losing) As such, attorneys typical use one of the following three types of fees: hourly, fixed fee, and/or retainers.
A criminal defense attorney may bill a client for the time he spends on the client’s case typically at an hourly rate. This type of billing may be more typically utilized by a defense attorney when involved in a very serious criminal case due to the inability to predict how much time the attorney might spend on the case. An attorney that charges an hourly fee may require a retainer (discussed below), to begin working on a client’s case.
A fixed fee, or flat rate, is a set amount of money that an attorney charges for resolving a defendant’s criminal case. A fixed fee is often utilized in traffic and misdemeanor cases so that the client knows exactly how much the representation is going to cost. However, a flat fee agreement may limit the attorney’s representation in a criminal case (e.g. only covering requesting a bond reduction or only covering pretrial representation). Make sure you are clear about what legal representation covers when an attorney quotes a flat fee.
Retainer fees are most often utilized in serious criminal cases where there is a substantial amount of time expected to be spent by the lawyer on the case. This is sometimes used in combination with an hourly fee. The attorney may require a client to pay a retainer fee which the attorney will then bill against as the attorney spends time on the client’s case. This is basically a way for the attorney to guarantee that payment will be made for the time the attorney spends working on the case. Some retainer fees are refundable (if the attorney spends less time on the case than the amount of the retainer fee collected) and some are non-refundable. Make sure you clearly understand if the retainer fee is refundable and when additional monies would be expected to be paid to the attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.