To find the best criminal defense attorney in Indiana, you should look for someone who has local experience in criminal law. It is also a good idea to find a lawyer who has defended clients who were facing charges similar to yours. Courtroom experience, a transparent billing and fee structure, positive reviews, testimonials, successful results, and sincere concern for your case and interests are also important.
The criminal defense attorney you hire can mean the difference between receiving the maximum penalties for your charges and having your charges or penalties reduced, or even eliminated.
What Is the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case?
Although there are a few ways in which civil cases and criminal cases may overlap, various differences exist between the two.
Civil cases usually involve disputes between two people. They are filed by individuals who have been wronged by other individuals. The wronged party who is suing is known as the plaintiff. The person getting sued is referred to as the defendant. Examples of civil cases are personal injury lawsuits, such as when police use excessive force and injure someone, or when you are injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver.
On the other hand, criminal cases generally involve offenses committed against the state. Crimes are viewed as actions against the state, even when committed against an individual. A state prosecutor is used against the accused individual.
When the plaintiffs win, civil cases usually result in monetary damages from the defendants. In criminal cases, the potential punishment for a defendant that has lost a case includes:
- Community service
- Serving a jail term
- Permanent criminal record
Considering how a criminal conviction can impact your parenting time rights, finances, freedom, and future opportunities, it is crucial for anyone facing a criminal charge to hire a criminal defense lawyer.
Criminal defense lawyers investigate cases and present evidence on behalf of clients to inspire reasonable doubt in juries or prove a client’s innocence. They develop case strategies and defenses and protect the legal rights of defendants, such as the presumption of innocence. An Indiana criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea deal, get a reduction in jail time or fines, community service or probation instead of a prison sentence, or even get your case dismissed entirely.
How to Find the Best Criminal Defense Attorney
Legal representatives handling criminal law cases in Indiana are not equal. Finding the best criminal defense attorney for your situation can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. As such, it is a good idea to evaluate multiple attorneys and consider the following:
Does the Attorney Focus on Criminal Law?
Criminal law is ever-evolving. To properly defend you, you will need a lawyer who focuses on criminal law. An attorney who focuses on criminal law will be more familiar with the criminal justice system in Indiana, and will be better placed to defend you in court. The lawyer will know what to expect and what is needed to prove your innocence.
What Type of Experience Does the Attorney Have?
You should also find out the type of cases in which an attorney is experienced. While some criminal defense lawyers will have more experience in cases involving drunk driving or drug charges, others may be more experienced with domestic violence cases and similar crimes. The best criminal defense attorney to hire is one who is the right fit for your individual situation. Therefore, it is vital for your attorney to have handled cases that are the same or similar to yours.
When talking to an attorney, ask about his or her experience handling cases similar to yours and the outcome of those cases. Be keen on whether he or she gives you clear or vague answers.
Does the Criminal Defense Lawyer Have Trial Experience?
Without a plea deal, your case will go to trial. Criminal defense attorneys have different levels of trial experience. You will need to hire an attorney with outstanding negotiation skills, extensive courtroom experience, and a track record of success. Such an attorney will be able to advise you on whether to accept or reject a plea offer and when to allow your case to proceed to trial. He or she will also have courtroom confidence, a crucial weapon for winning criminal cases.
One way you can evaluate a lawyer’s trial experience and enthusiasm is by looking at the number of cases he or she has settled through plea bargains. If you find that a criminal defense attorney settles all his or her cases through plea deals, that could indicate that the attorney is not willing to fight to protect your best interests in court.
Where Is the Attorney Located?
Your attorney should be serving Indiana. Such an attorney will know the Indiana criminal code and other Indiana laws, such as the Indiana Dram Shop Law. Courts and judges have their own set of procedures and etiquette. If your lawyer is familiar with the courts, he or she will likely know the presiding jury and prosecutors and how they operate. A local attorney also regularly deals with the police officers in Indiana and will know how they tend to act before judges.
A lawyer with local ties and relationships will find it easier to handle your case and develop a winning strategy.
Check the Attorney’s Reputation
After confirming a lawyer has the level of experience you need, learn about the lawyer’s reputation. Fortunately, you can learn a lot about criminal defense lawyers online. The Indiana State Bar is a good starting point. There, you will see whether there is any history of formal discipline on the attorney’s record.
Online platforms like Facebook that do not allow attorneys to remove negative client reviews are also valuable sources of information. Reading the reviews helps you get a better sense of the quality of service an attorney provides. While there is cause for alarm if there are too many bad reviews, a few negative reviews are to be expected.
Ask for Referrals
An excellent way of finding a good attorney is through referrals. Ask for recommendations from family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. If there is anyone in your circle who knows or has used a criminal defense attorney in Indiana, he or she could give you an honest opinion on the attorney and help you know what to expect.
Clear Billing Information
The fees and fee structures of criminal defense lawyers vary widely. However, your priority should be on the transparency of a lawyer’s billing policy rather than the price tag. A clear fee structure is better than a cheap option with crafty clauses and hidden charges.
You should be fully informed of a lawyer’s rates and any other costs you may incur as his or her client. Your lawyer’s billing information should be clear. Avoid lawyers who are not very upfront about how much they will charge you and seem to avoid talking about pricing. Such lawyers may engage in unethical business practices.
Choose an Attorney You Can Trust
A criminal defense attorney will not be the best one for your case if you do not feel comfortable working with him or her. Since your reputation and your future could be on the line, you need to hire someone you feel you can trust to protect your rights and your best interests.
Some factors you can consider to make sure the attorney you choose is someone with whom you are personally comfortable include:
- How invested the attorney is in your case
- How the attorney speaks with you
- Whether the attorney shows concern about your opinions
Hire a criminal defense lawyer who shows concern for your case and is ready to start working on it right away. He or she should make himself or herself available for a meeting at least within a day of you contacting him or her. The lawyer’s legal team should be quick to respond to your phone calls or emails.
Your attorney should prioritize making you understand the different aspects of your case. He or she should take the time to explain things to you in terms you can understand.
You will not be comfortable working with a lawyer who sees you as a case file rather than a partner. You do not want a lawyer who will dictate how your case should be managed without taking your opinions and feelings into account. Your lawyer should seek to understand your priorities and goals and get your input before making decisions.
When looking for how to find the best criminal defense attorney in Indiana, you will want to hire a criminal defense attorney you are comfortable working with. Doing so will often make it easier for you to speak with him or her about your case and personal issues more openly and honestly, and increase your chances of getting a favorable outcome.