How to Choose the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case

How to Choose the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it’s in your best interest to seek legal counsel immediately. Even seemingly minor crimes can still result in a criminal record and harsh sentences, and having a record can haunt you for years, limiting your life, from where you work to where you live.

The reality is, when it comes to criminal defense, not all lawyers are created equal. The outcome of your case is largely dependent on having the right lawyer fighting for you. A Google search turns up thousands of results. All claiming to be the right attorney for you. So, how do you know who to choose?

Although the nature and severity of the alleged crime will factor heavily into how your case is handled, any person who is charged with a crime should ensure that their lawyer meets all of the following criteria.

1. Experience with the Charges You are Facing

Hiring an attorney who specializes in white collar crimes may not be the best choice to fight your sexual assault charge. Criminal law is complex and ever evolving, so it’s essential to work with a lawyer who has extensive experience in the specific crime with which you’ve been charged.

Do your homework and hire a lawyer who has a deep understanding of exactly what you’re going through.

2. Comfortability

Most law firms offer a free initial consultation. I recommend taking advantage of it. This will give you the opportunity to ask questions and see how you interact together. Personal chemistry is an underrated, yet very important factor when choosing legal representation. If you don’t feel comfortable with your lawyer, the legal process is going to be unnecessarily long and painful, and the outcome is less likely to be favorable.

The best lawyer-client relationships are collaborative. When you trust your lawyer, the relationship becomes more of a partnership, and the chances of a successful outcome increase dramatically.

Use these questions as a guide to determine if the lawyer you’re interviewing is right for you.

  • Am I comfortable talking openly to them?
  • Does my lawyer explain things in a way that I can understand?
  • Does my lawyer seem genuinely concerned about me and the outcome of my case?
  • Does my lawyer seem trustworthy?
  • Does my lawyer appear confident?

3. Word of Mouth and Online Reviews

One of the best ways to find a good defense lawyer is word of mouth. If you know someone who has been in a similar situation, ask who they used for legal counsel and if they were happy with their results. However, just because a lawyer was a good fit for someone else, doesn’t make them a good fit for you. So, don’t just take a name and run with it. Make sure you have the consultation, then do some online digging. With the wealth of information available on the internet, there is no excuse to not do your homework.

Choosing the right defense lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Check the state bar association website to see if the lawyer has a record of formal discipline, and search for reviews on Facebook and Google.

IMPORTANT TIP: Although reviews can assist in guiding you, they should not be taken as the deciding factor in your end decision.

One bad review shouldn’t necessarily keep you from working with a particular lawyer, but several bad reviews should be a clear red flag. The same goes for good reviews. Just because a lawyer has 2,000 good reviews and another has 200, doesn’t mean one lawyer is better than the other. A criminal case is a personal and private matter that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable sharing with the world. So, don’t let a lack of reviews stop you from scheduling a consultation either.

4. Courtroom Confidence

If your case moves to trial, you want to know that your lawyer has confidence in the courtroom. In addition to specifically asking about courtroom experience, a lawyer’s appearance and demeanor can give big clues as to how they will perform in a courtroom. If they are neatly dressed, well spoken, and confident, these characteristics will bode well in a courtroom setting.

On the other hand, if a lawyer appears nervous or disheveled, their arguments may be less convincing to a judge and jury. As with most things, exceptions exist, but confidence is generally the hallmark of any successful trial lawyer.

It is also important that your lawyer can take direction from you. Although they will control certain aspects of your case, like filing motions and calling witnesses, the big decisions, like whether to plead guilty or go to trial, or whether to try to make a deal, are YOUR call. Look for an attorney who takes the time to get to know you and your goals, and who actively integrates your input into the legal strategy.

5. Listen to Your Gut

At the end of the day, trust your instincts. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to walk away. Remember, you are interviewing the defense lawyer, not the other way around. Ultimately, this is your battle to fight, and you need the right lawyer by your side if you’re going to win.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and in need of an experienced criminal lawyer, please contact Nathan Akamine.

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Should Vehicle Searches Based on Odor Be Allowed?

Should Vehicle Searches Based on Odor Be Allowed?

We all had a scratch and sniff book growing up. We would marvel at how accurately the artificial scent matched the real thing. But there are legal consequences to an officer detecting an odor of marijuana. If an officer smells cannabis coming from your car, everything and everyone in your vehicle can be searched.

This is because the odor of cannabis supposedly provides an officer probable cause that there is illegal marijuana in the car. Probable cause tends to be a touchy subject. When the law says that a police officer has “probable cause,” what it means is that the officer has reason to believe there is “a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.”

But, times are changing. There’s legal marijuana now, hemp, CBD infused everything.

Well, legal hemp and legal marijuana smell exactly like illegal marijuana. So, should the odor of cannabis still provide “probable cause” to search a vehicle? It seems that this position needs to give a little.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a hypothetical. Let’s say you’re stopped for not having your headlights on. When the officer comes to your window, he claims that he smells the odor of cannabis. Based on this, he searches both you and the car. Nothing is found on you, but inside your car, he finds a bag of weed and a pill bottle with some other illegal drug. You end up facing drug charges, or even marijuana dui charges.

Related article: Can someone get a DUI for using CBD oil?

In theory, we could file a Motion to Suppress all the evidence found in the car, arguing that the officer didn’t have probable cause to search because the scent of marijuana could have been from a perfectly legal substance.

Effective July 30, 2019, Senate Bill 1020 (the “Hemp” Bill) makes the cannabis plant legal in the State of Ohio. This creates a problem for law enforcement because the plant is exactly the same as a marijuana plant, however, it is used for the THC content only. So not only does it smell like fresh illegal cannabis, it looks exactly like illegal marijuana. In fact, it takes a lab test to sort out the difference.

So the question remains, is there still “a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found?”

Most states have made medical marijuana legal, but still permit a search of a vehicle based upon the odor of cannabis, but I’m not convinced that the odor of cannabis will always provide probable cause for a search.

For another hypothetical, let’s say you have a bunch of cars parked outside of a legal medical marijuana dispensary. Let’s say law enforcement waits until a patient pulls out of the dispensary parking lot, then pulls the car over. The officer searches the car based upon the odor of fresh cannabis. Does this still qualify a legal search?

A change in the probable cause policy is sure to be re-evaluated in the future, but till then, if you’ve been charged with possession of illegal drugs, I’m here to help.

Call Nathan Akamine.