How much a criminal lawyer costs in Pennsylvania depends on your circumstances. For instance, if your case is simple and ends quickly, you will likely accrue less in legal costs than someone who has a highly complex case that takes years to adjudicate and goes through several rounds of appeals.
Before you hire an attorney, you can review their payment policy. You can ask questions that clarify what their services cost, how they get paid (e.g., an hourly rate versus a flat fee), and what you get for your money.
Deciding Which Law Firm Is Worth Your Money
You should consider several factors or traits when choosing a law firm to represent you.
- Honesty: A defense lawyer should always discuss payment before a contract is signed. They will tell you about potential strategies that stand out to themhow much you might have to pay—and that legal fees may be more or less than expected, depending on how your case goes.
- Clarity: They should make it clear what you can expect for their services and when and how they expect payment. The contract will spell out the details of the agreement. You should have ample opportunity to ask questions before signing the agreement.
- Professionalism: Whichever firm you select should know the ins and outs of the Pennsylvania legal system and put that knowledge to effective use on your behalf.
- Availability: You deserve a law firm that responds to your queries in a timely manner and spends as much time as you need reviewing your options and rights and discussing payment options, such as hourly fees versus flat fees.
For a free legal consultation, call 215.515.3360
What you pay a defense lawyer to do
In some ways, the prosecution has the more difficult job in criminal cases, as they must prove that you are “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” to get a conviction, per The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. If the defense introduces doubt in the jurors’ minds, the jury must let you go free.
That said, it is important to remember what you are up against—a strict, often unforgiving legal system that has the power to hand down life-changing penalties. Even a minor error could jeopardize your defense. So, instead of trying to manage your case alone, your defense attorney can:
- Explain your options: There is often more than one way to handle a case. They can walk you through each available option and help you decide which option might be the best or least stressful for you.
- Build the strongest possible case: They can collect evidence from all available sources, interview witnesses, and more.
- Bargain with the prosecution: If they can persuade the prosecutor that their case is too weak to hold up in court, the state may be willing to drop the charges or let you go with a light penalty.
- Bargain with the judge: Sometimes, in the case of an open plea, the prosecution will offer you a certain charge, but your lawyer can present things about you to ask the judge for a particular sentence.
- Select a jury: It is essential to make sure the jury excludes people who might have a preconceived bias against you. A competent lawyer knows what to look for in a juror and how to pick a jury that is more likely to treat you fairly.
- Defend you in court: If your case goes to trial, your attorney can examine witnesses, submit evidence, and do everything possible to weaken the prosecution’s case. They can also file an appeal if the jury decides against you.
The Cost of a Criminal Conviction
The cost of a criminal lawyer often pales in comparison to what you might face upon a conviction—especially if you have prior convictions or have been charged with a felony. As detailed in multiple sections of 18 Pa. C.S.A, you could stand to lose the following.
For many crimes, a guilty verdict could result in possible jail or prison sentences. These sentences may range from a few days to the rest of your life, depending on the severity of the crime, how many prior convictions you have, and what the judge feels is appropriate.
Even a few months behind bars can have grave consequences for your:
- Career: Spending too much time in jail or prison could cost you your job and derail your career, permanently affecting your ability to support your family.
- Family: Being separated from your loved ones and unable to care for dependents can be very difficult for everyone involved.
- Mental health: Prison is often a grim, unstimulating experience. Combining this fact with the knowledge that you are a criminal could cause or exacerbate mental health problems.
A guilty verdict could hit you in the pockets in several ways:
- A judge could impose fines and fees, including reimbursing the legal system for the cost of prosecuting you.
- The judge could also order you to pay restitution to the victim of the crime for which you were convicted.
- A conviction could make it more difficult for you to keep or find a job because many employers view a criminal conviction as a mark against a candidate.
- You might have your driver’s license suspended or revoked in DUI cases, making it hard for you to get to work and fulfill familial obligations.
Being convicted of a crime, even if you are not guilty, can change the way others see and interact with you. A conviction for a sensitive crime, such as sexual assault or domestic violence, can be especially damaging. There are many stereotypes and prejudices about individuals with convictions, which may cost you:
- Long standing friendships or relationships with relatives
- Custody or access to your children
- Employment and educational opportunities
- Your reputation within the community
Call for a Free Consultation
Is it worth the cost of hiring a criminal lawyer to help with your case? If you are considering this question, call the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC. at our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, office for more information. During your free consultation, we can discuss our services and how much they may cost. Call us today