Fees and Costs
The second most frequently asked question (after “Am I going to jail?”) is how much does it cost to retain an attorney. The answer is – it depends. It depends on what you are charged with, your prior criminal history, as well as many other factors.
It is important to understand the general process of retaining a criminal defense lawyer.
After deciding that you want to consider retaining a lawyer, ask for a copy of a fee agreement. A fee agreement is a written contract between you and the attorney setting forth the scope of representation, as well as the fee for such representation. You will be asked to read the entire contract, and whether you have any questions as to any of the terms. After reviewing the contract, and if you still want to hire the lawyer, you sign the contract and pay the required fee. The lawyer can then immediately begin working on your case.
Fees are the cost of retaining the attorney. They cover the lawyer’s time and efforts on the case, including reviewing all discovery and evidence, meetings with the government’s lawyers, as well as time spent in court. Fees are charged flat rate, meaning that you pay once and you are done. This allows an attorney to not be rushed in trying to resolve a case within a set period of time, and it means that a client is not being billed for every time an attorney reviews the file. Fees are prepaid by the client, but payment plans are available to those who have appropriate credit histories.
Costs are different than fees. While fees cover the work the lawyer does, costs cover the work of others hired by your attorney, or for other expenses. Your lawyer may want to have an investigator interview a potential witness, or to have a retest run on blood sample. These types of expenses are paid for by your attorney (to protect attorney-client privilege) out of funds from you set aside specifically for the expenses. But before any costs are incurred, you and your lawyer confer about the estimated amounts and agree to a budget. Costs are always prepaid by the client with any amounts not spent returned at the end of the case.