Has your child been charged with a crime or is facing a juvenile delinquency case? Probably the most important decision you can make right now is who you choose to represent them in court. Even if you know they committed the crime, it's vital that they have a qualified professional to protect their rights and advise them or they could easily be convicted of a more serious crime or do more time than is really warranted, which can negatively impact the trajectory of the rest of their lives. Not only could they spend years in locked up where they could pick up bad ideas from others, but their conviction could follow them around for the rest of their lives.
But it's not just about hiring a lawyer, you have to hire the right lawyer.
Choose a Criminal Attorney
In many states, it's perfectly legal for any kind of attorney to represent someone in a criminal case so long as they educate themselves about the subject. (And who's to say how well they educated themselves? Apparently, they are.)
But there are a lot of subtleties to criminal defense that you learn with experience, not from books. Make sure your child's attorney has experience in criminal defense. You wouldn't take your child to a vet would you? Unless it was an emergency, you wouldn't take your dog to an M.D. either. That's just wise — human and dog anatomy and treatment just aren't the same. Neither are criminal and civil law.
Hire an Attorney Familiar with Your Jurisdiction
A local attorney isn't just familiar with the law, they know the area. They're familiar with the judges (and their proclivities), the police and other government personnel or expert witnesses who might testify against your child.
While the procedures and rules are the same from county to county, they are sometimes carried out in different ways. For example, the procedures and rules require a pre-trial prior to a trial day. Some courts may have a case management between the pre-trial and the trial date. By choosing a Florida criminal defense attorney
, they'll have a better handle on what diversion programs (programs designed to keep juveniles out of the system) are available and how to make a case that your child qualifies.
That doesn't mean they have to be in the exact same town, but they should have experience in your area. But if you live in an area where criminal attorneys aren't as common, do realize that hiring a good attorney may be more important than hiring a local one.
Know Who Will Really Take the Case
Make sure the person you talk to during the initial meeting is the lawyer who will really be working on your child's case. Often, you may meet first with a partner who has a lot of experience and seems like exactly the lawyer for you, only to be transferred over to someone who works in the firm (who may even be a rookie) to handle the case with the partner simply "overseeing."
That's not inherently bad, but you need to know just how much involvement each person will really have and whether you can talk to the partner if you have any questions about the advice you're given by the other lawyer. You also need to speak to the actual person handling your case before you make the decision. Just because the partner says what you want to hear doesn't mean you'll work well with their employee.
Don't Hire Based Personality, Hire Based on Who Can Do the Job
No one expects you to hire an attorney you think is a jerk, especially if his treatment extends to your kid, but your primary focus should be on someone who can get the job done, and sometimes that means they'll say things you may not like. That's not being a jerk, that's being good at your job.
A good criminal attorney will tell you and your child how it is. And the hard truth, no matter how skillfully delivered, may make your child (or even you) cry. Be wary of an attorney who gives you nothing but good news with no disclaimers unless they can tell you why. No one can guarantee you your child won't spend time behind bars or that they can prevent a conviction, especially not in the initial consultation. There are too many factors involved for them to know anything for certain. Just because the attorney thinks your kid's 4th Amendment rights were violated doesn't mean a judge or jury will agree. Innocent people do go to jail and if they say anything else, walk out the door.
But don't stop there. Before you hire the attorney, pay attention to how responsive they are before you even hire them. Having trouble talking to an attorney? Can't get them to return your calls? Takes forever to schedule a face-to-face meeting once you do call? That's a red flag the attorney is either too busy or unresponsive, and it will probably continue after you pay them.
That said, remember that attorneys do have to be in court, and it's not optional. They can't "take a quick call" when they're in front of the judge or ask for a recess to talk to you. They also have other clients who think their case is just as important as you think yours is. So long as they respond in a reasonable amount of time and they're communicative about when they'll get back to you, you can consider that normal.
Hiring the Right Criminal Defense Attorney for Your Child
Before you hire any attorney, you should meet with them either in person or on the phone to discuss your case. If your child has been accused of a crime, call the Kissimmee criminal defense attorneys at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.