Unless you have needed the services of a criminal defense attorney before you likely know very little about how they operate. If you suddenly find yourself in need of a defense attorney because you have been charged with a criminal offense, you may feel a bit confused and unsure of where to start. Finding and retaining the right attorney for your case can be a daunting prospect all by itself – and that’s before the prosecution of your case actually gets underway. Unless money is no object for you, one of your biggest concerns will likely be the cost of your representation. Because every case is unique, and every attorney sets his or her own fees, there is no way to know how much a criminal defense attorney will charge you for case without consulting with that attorney. To begin with, however, you should understand how criminal lawyers set their fees and some of the factors that typically determine how much a case will cost a defendant.
Attorney Fee Structures
There is no such thing as a “standard fee” when it comes to attorney fees. There are, however, three different fee structures that attorneys use to set fees for representation in legal matters, including:
- Contingency fees – when an attorney charges using a contingency fee arrangement it means that the attorney will receive a percentage of the funds the attorney collects on behalf of the client as a result of a settlement or award at trial. If the attorney does not obtain a settlement or award for the client, the attorney receives nothing. This type of fee arrangement is most commonly used for cases such as personal injury, Social Security, or unemployment benefits. In these cases, the attorney is usually able to evaluate from the beginning whether or not a settlement/award is likely and, therefore, is willing to work for a contingency fee. Most states specifically prohibit an attorney from charging a contingency fee in criminal matters. In other words, attorneys cannot base a fee on the outcome of the case.
- Hourly fees – as the name implies, an hourly fee arrangement is one in which the attorney keeps track of the time spent on a case and bills the client for that time at a set rate. Usually, the attorney requires a retainer fee up front against which the attorney will bill time until the retainer is depleted. As the retainer is depleted, the client must replenish it. This fee structure is usually used for civil matters. Although this type of fee arrangement is sometimes used by criminal lawyers, it is not the most common type of fee arrangement used.
- Fixed or Set fees – a fixed fee, also referred to as a “set fee” is one in which the attorney charges the client a predetermined amount without regard to how many hours the attorney spends on the case nor the outcome of the case. Most criminal lawyers charge fixed fees, particularly for less serious criminal cases. Set fees are also frequently used for routine legal matters such as an uncontested divorce, creating a Last Will and Testament, or petitioning for guardianship.
How Do Criminal Lawyers Decide How Much to Charge?
Every attorney sets his or her own fee schedule; however, there are some common factors used by criminal lawyers when deciding what that fee schedule will be. For example, a criminal defense attorney will charge more for a felony case than for a misdemeanor case because there is much more at stake. The client’s intentions, however will also be important. An attorney may decrease his/her standard fee if the client is adamant that all the client wants is for the attorney to negotiate the best plea agreement possible. Conversely, if a client is determined to go to jury trial from the very beginning it could increase a normal fee. The county/court where the case has been filed can also play an important role in determining fee structures because the reality is that some courts are more efficient than others and some prosecutors are more reasonable than others. Finally, a client’s own criminal history (or lack thereof) may also play a role in how much an attorney charges because a client with a lengthy history may be facing harsher penalties and/or a violation of probation/parole along with the instant charges.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal lawyers at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.