Facing serious criminal charges, or being told that you are a subject or target of a criminal investigation, can be extremely stressful and unnerving. It is common to feel overwhelmed and uncertain what to ask in your consultation with a criminal defense attorney. Below are some of the major questions a prospective client should ask the attorney.


An experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to talk, at least generally, about the strengths and weaknesses of the case. He or she should be able to identify the relevant issues, strategies going forward and potential defenses. If the case is new, then the attorney can only give general insights because the prosecution has not yet provided any discovery – police reports, statements by witnesses or the client, tape recordings, photographs, etc. – that more fully detail the government’s case. But, the attorney should be able to explain how these types of cases are investigated and prosecuted, and be able to offer insights as to the work that lies ahead. Be aware, however, that the attorney has no credible way of predicting the outcome of your matter at this early stage.


How long will it take to resolve the case?

Experienced criminal defense counsel can inform you, based upon their years of prior experience, how long a case like yours usually takes, and what you can expect along the way. While each investigation and case are different, the attorney can give you a good idea of how long and what to expect for cases in the federal system or in each state or county that they practice.


How much will it cost to defend your matter?

Most criminal cases are handled on a flat fee basis for certain portions of the case. A client needs to know that she can afford the representation and the attorney needs to know that the client has the resources to properly defend the case. In certain instances, particularly when the matter is still in the investigative stage and charges have not yet been brought, the representation will start on an hourly fee basis until the attorney has a better understanding of the scope and complexity of the case.


What experience does the defense attorney have in the type of case brought against the client?

Experience with both the type of case, and the prosecuting agency, is often critical to success. The more experience the attorney has usually results in better insights into the case, its defense and the type of resolutions that are realistic with the particular prosecuting agency.


Who else will be working on your case, and does the firm have the time to handle your matter?

These are important issues that the potential client should inquire about. The experience of the other lawyers in the firm, as well as their caseload, is critical to the quality of representation. Firms that handle a large volume of cases, with a minimal staff, may not have the time and attention to detail the client’s matter requires.

Cautionary Note:

These questions provide a good framework for the client to make an educated and informed decision about counsel. There are also the intangible areas of comfort and trust in the person. But do not be lulled by boastful promises or talk of the attorney’s confidence that the case will be dismissed, or that charges will never be brought. Experienced and ethical counsel will reserve their opinions about the outcome until they have the relevant facts and can fully examine the evidence and the case law. Good defense counsel will tell you what you need to know, rather than what you want to hear for comfort.

Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers aggressively defend individuals charged with complex federal and state crimes.Founder Robert G. Stahlis recognized as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the NY/NJ area for his skills, knowledge and success. To contact us to discuss your case, call 908.301.9001for our NJ office and 212.755.3300for our NYC office, or email us at rstahl@stahlesq.com.