1. If I am arrested or charged with a crime, do I need a lawyer?
It is rarely, if ever, a good idea to handle a criminal offense without a lawyer. This is true whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor. Technically speaking, this is the United States of America and you can represent yourself. However, the consequences for a criminal conviction are serious. For example: it can affect your security clearance for work purposes; it can negatively affect your ability to get a student loan; it can sometimes trigger a termination of employment; it can affect your ability to be bonded for purposes of employment; it can also cause a suspension or revocation of your driving license or privilege. Of course, the effects of a criminal charge or conviction vary from state to state. But the consequences are so serious that you really need someone with the experience and expertise to guide you.
2. Since I do need a lawyer, what type of lawyer should I hire?
It is strongly suggested that you consult and retain a criminal defense lawyer. While it is true that a “general practitioner” of the law can sometimes be very useful as an advisor, it is advisable to consult with a lawyer that limits his or her practice to the defense of criminal matters. Put it this way: if you had a medical problem such as a brain tumor, you would be reluctant to let the matter be handled by your family doctor. Why? Because the treatment is complicated and the potential consequences are serious. And so it is with regard to criminal matters. With a criminal case you are not simply concerned about whether you were going to win or lose a few dollars. Your liberty is at stake. It is in your best interest to retain a lawyer that is a criminal defense lawyer.
3. Since I want to hire a lawyer, should I hire one from the “big city?” Or should I hire one from the jurisdiction where I am charged?
Look at it this way: if you were going on a safari in Africa, wouldn’t you want to hire a guide that works in Africa exclusively? Or would you hire a Fishing guide from the woods of Canada? Or a hunting guide from the Mohave Desert? Obviously, all three of these guides would qualify as a good outdoorsman. However, finding a competent guide from Africa (the place where you are going to be) would unquestionably serve you better than a guide from somewhere else.
So…It is respectfully suggested that you hire a lawyer with local connections and experience. Being a good lawyer requires a lot more than knowing what is contained in the law books. Expert criminal defense lawyers are also well acquainted with local judges, prosecutors, police officers, and court personnel. Making good strategy decisions requires technical competence as well as insight into the workings of the local judicial system. In addition, these two factors require consideration in light of each other, i.e, technical competence without insight will not get you the best result. Knowledge of the local justice system also renders a lawyer more able to predict the outcome of your particular case…another significant benefit.
4. Will I go to jail?
It depends. First, you should be suspicious of anyone who tells you that you will definitely not go to jail. Judges make decisions regarding sentences. Each has his or her own policies. This is another one of those situations where a lawyer having knowledge of local court workings and policies can work to your benefit. While it is true that there are some offenses for which most judges will not impose an active jail sentence, there is no hard and fast rule. In addition, you should consider this: “Jail or no jail” should not be your only question. In addition to incarceration, defendants sometimes have to pay heavy fines or comply with burdensome conditions of probation. By way of example, you might initially think that not going to jail for a driving while suspended charge is a good result. However, if you are still reporting to a probation agent two years later, it’s possible that you would no longer be happy with your sentence.
5. What good does it do a person to hire the “Best Lawyer in Ocean City,” or the “Best Lawyer in Worcester County,” or the “Best Lawyer in Maryland?”
Here, a baseball analogy might provide a good illustration: a professional baseball player that bats .350 might make 10 or $15 million per year. A professional baseball player that bats .230 might get cut to the minor leagues. Why? Because team owners and managers know that that extra .120 adds up to a lot more offense and a lot more wins.
It is very similar with the case of Criminal Defense lawyers. Better lawyers are considered better because they have a better “batting average.” There are some cases that almost any lawyer could resolve successfully. There are other cases that will have unpleasant results with even the best lawyer. It is what the lawyer does with the cases in between that determines his or her “batting average.” Moreover, just as with professional baseball players, some lawyers are better at hitting the “tough pitches.” And, just as it is with professional baseball players, you pay more to hire a lawyer with a better batting average. Does it guarantee you a home run? Certainly not. It can, however, substantially enhance your chances of a good result.