The cost of hiring a criminal defense lawyer is important to every one of my criminal defense clients. Because these situations are not planned, most people are not prepared financially for the burden that being arrested and then having to hire a lawyer quickly carries. Many people use whatever money they have saved to bond out of jail. Over the last twenty years of practicing law in Pinellas County and with my office in St. Petersburg, I am familiar with what the going rates are for criminal and traffic cases. I am writing this article in an effort to shed some light on the reasons why certain fees are charged. This discussion is limited to what the quality lawyers charge. If you want to hire someone simply because they are cheap and that’s all you can afford, then perhaps this article is not for you. (And, perhaps you might be better off with a public defender because those lawyers will hurt you more than they will help you.)
One piece of advice about hiring a lawyer before you continue: Read the reviews for the lawyer before you hire the person. If you were referred by a friend or family member, that is great, but do some research. Look at what other people say about that lawyer to learn how they treat people. You can learn a lot through reviews. If there are no reviews, then do not hire that person!
How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Charge for a DUI?
My standard rate for a first time DUI is $2,500. This is also the average cost for most lawyers in the county. If you have a prior DUI arrest, even if it was dropped or reduced to a reckless driving, your fee may go up. The reason why a prior record increases the fee is because the Office of the State Attorney will hold that prior case against you. That makes it much more difficult to resolve a case and increases the penalties. With that extra risk and work, comes a higher fee.
How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Charge for a Misdemeanor?
I charge between $1,500-$2,500 for a misdemeanor case in Pinellas County. If the alleged crime is something simple, like a disorderly conduct, then the fee is on the low end. If the alleged crime is more severe, like domestic battery, then the fee is on the upper end. What a lawyer charges depends on the facts of each case, whether there is a victim, and your prior record.
How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Charge for a Felony?
The standard rate for a felony charge in Pinellas County is $5,000. However, unlike a misdemeanor, there are a lot of levels of felonies, and the price can vary depending on what is alleged. If it is a straightforward case like a drug possession that I know a client can get the charge dismissed through a diversion program, I will reduce my fee down to $3,500-$4,000. If the felony involves an act of violence where there is a victim that wants to prosecute, such as a felony battery, then I remain at the standard fee. If the alleged crime involves injury to a victim or the person has a prior criminal record, then I will likely charge more than the standard fee. If the charge involves the sale of a controlled substance, I know that the judge and the prosecutor will prosecute that aggressively, so I will charge more. I also look in every felony case to see who the judge is. While I know every judge and feel comfortable in every courtroom, some divisions are tougher than others. I factor in the complexity of the case and the time and effort that I estimate will be required into the price.
How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Charge For a Violation of Probation?
Misdemeanor violations of probation are $2,000 and felony violations are $2,500. This assumes that the violation did not involve a new charge. If the basis for the violation was for a new charge, then I will factor that into the price. In these cases, I always look to see who your judge is. The goal on every violation is to make sure you complete any outstanding condition as soon as possible. If you can get those conditions completed before the probation office writes the violation report, you will look much better to the judge.
How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Charge to Handle a Warrant?
I charge between $1,500-$2,500 for misdemeanor warrants. If the warrant was for something simple to resolve like a driving on a suspended license or leaving the scene of an accident, the charge is on the low end. If the warrant is for something more serious like a DUI or a battery, then I charge on the higher end. Almost all misdemeanor warrants can be resolved through the mail if the person no longer lives here. Felony warrants are more complicated. The standard fee for a felony warrant is the same for any felony case. Because felony warrants can’t normally be resolved without the person coming back to Pinellas County, they are more complex.
Do Criminal Defense Lawyers Take Payments?
Whether a lawyer will take payments depends on the lawyer. I try not to take payments on my cases. I have been burned too many times by people who promise to pay and never do. I have learned my lesson. I know that these people have good intentions, but when they find themselves struggling, my fee is not their first priority. There are always exceptions based on my relationship with someone, but if I don’t know you, I am not going to take a payment plan. And, if a client is looking at jail or prison, I absolutely will not take payments. It is hard to work and pay a lawyer when someone is in jail, right?
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer
In every case, I consider the facts and circumstances and try to come up with a fee that is fair to my client and to me. I do not consider how much money you have or how much you can pay. I would never charge someone more simply because he or she can pay more. I know that some lawyers do this, but I did not obtain the reputation that I have by taking advantage of people. I am honest with my clients and always put their best interest first.
I wrote this article to provide some transparency to the world of criminal defense attorneys. Criminal lawyers do not publish set prices because no two cases are the same. But, an experienced and honest defense lawyer can usually estimate what is going to be a fair price after a brief conversation. I always try to be fair with my prices. If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney, I hope that you learned something from this article and will consider me while choosing a lawyer. Contact me today to schedule a free consultation.