All it takes is a single momentary lapse in judgment for an otherwise law-abiding citizen to end up under arrest and charged with a criminal offense. If that describes your situation, you are undoubtedly dealing with a number of concerns relating to your arrest, including the need to retain an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney. Although you know you need to hire a lawyer, you are probably wondering how defense lawyers charge clients and what kind of fees you are looking at having to pay for your defense. Having never had to retain the services of a defense lawyer, your concern is certainly understandable. Because every criminal case is unique, and every defense attorney determines his/her own fee scale, there is no universal answer to questions regarding fees. There are, however, some common factors that typically influence how defense lawyers decide what and how to charge clients.
Types of Fee Arrangements
Even if you have hired attorneys before in the past, they were most likely civil attorneys, not criminal attorneys. This means they likely used a different type of fee arrangement than you may encounter with a criminal attorney. In general, there are three different types of fee arrangements lawyer use when billing clients:
- Per hour fees — as the name implies, this type of fee arrangement means that a lawyer is keeping track of the time spent on your case and billing you for that time, typically in quarter hour increments. When you are charged an hourly fee you are usually required to give the attorney a “retainer” fee up front against which time will be billed until the retainer runs low. You will then need to replenish the retainer. For example, you might be charged $250 per hour and asked to give the attorney a $2500 retainer which represents ten hours of the lawyer’s time. When you have used about nine hours you will likely need to make another payment. When this fee arrangement is used, the amount of the retainer required is determined by how much time the attorney thinks he/she will spend on the case. Most civil legal issues are billed using this type of fee arrangement.
- Contingency fees – certain types of civil cases, however, use a contingency fee arrangement. When a contingency fee is used, the client agrees to give the attorney a percentage of what the attorney gets for the client. For example, if the attorney secures $150,000 for the client, and the contingency fee is one-third, the attorney will earn $50,000. If the attorney does not recover anything, the attorney gets paid nothing. This is most commonly used for legal issues such as personal injury lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims, and wrongful death cases.
- Flat fees — a flat fee arrangement means the client pays an agreed upon fee regardless of how much, or how little, time the attorney spends on the case. Many criminal defense attorneys charge a flat fee. Usually, the entire fee must be paid up front; however, some attorneys will accept a down payment and allow the client to make payments.
Common Factors that Influence Fees
Defense lawyers who charge a flat fee will typically use several common factors when setting those fees, including:
- Level of the offense — criminal cases are broadly divided into two categories — misdemeanors and felonies with felonies being the more serious of the two. Offenses are then further divided into more and less serious felonies and misdemeanors. The fee to represent a client on a serious felony will likely be more than for a simple misdemeanor.
- Type of offense — some types of cases are intrinsically more time intensive than others. For instance, if a victim is involved the victim will have to be deposed, which can take a considerable amount of time.
- County or court — federal cases almost always require more work than their state level counterpart. Certain counties may also be known to be more difficult than others as can certain courts.
- Facts of the case — an attorney may read the probable cause affidavit and realize the case will take more time than the average case — or less –and may adjust the fee accordingly.
- Client’s expectations — some clients already know they just want the attorney to negotiate the best plea agreement possible. Conversely, some clients are adamant from the beginning that they will never plead guilty. Knowing how the clients wants to resolve the case can influence the fee charged by the attorney.
If you have additional questions regarding how defense lawyers charge in the State of Tennessee, feel free to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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