Choosing a Lawyer in SC for Your Criminal Case
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime or if you think you are under investigation, your first critical step will be choosing a lawyer – the right lawyer for you and your case.
Is the Law Office of Grant B. Smaldone the right choice for your case?
If you are looking for a divorce lawyer or if you want to sue after a car wreck, the answer is no. If you have been charged with a crime or think you may be under investigation, the answer is maybe.
Take the time to research criminal defense lawyers in Charleston, SC online, talk to some current or former clients if possible, and, if you call or email to schedule an appointment, I will meet with you and answer your questions.
If you found this website and blog because you are searching for a criminal defense attorney in Charleston, SC, you are taking the first step. Keep in mind, however, that websites are advertising – every attorney who has a website is marketing their services, and every attorney’s website will only say happy, positive things about that attorney.
Below, I’ll share my thoughts on how you may be able to dig deeper when choosing a lawyer and research criminal defense attorneys to find the best fit for you and your case.
Choosing a Criminal Defense Lawyer: First, Make Sure They are a Criminal Defense Lawyer
In SC, there is no requirement that an attorney only accept cases in a certain practice area – if you have a law degree and you are a licensed member of the SC Bar, you can take someone’s money and represent them in any type of case…
As a practical matter, however, the practice of law has become increasingly specialized. Real estate attorneys often limit themselves to real estate transactions. Corporate attorneys often limit themselves to business law and issues faced by corporations.
Criminal defense is different, however. Many criminal defense lawyers in SC and the Charleston, SC area will accept criminal defense cases, personal injury cases, real estate transactions, divorces, and criminal defense cases, or any combination of these common practice areas.
There is no requirement that an attorney specialize in criminal defense, or even have experience in criminal law, before accepting clients who have been charged with crimes.
Why Do Attorneys Accept Cases in Multiple Practice Areas?
The simple answer is that there is nothing wrong with a law office that engages in general practice. In many areas of the state, it is near impossible to earn a living and to support a law office if you are only accepting criminal defense cases – even if the attorney would like to practice only criminal defense, they must bring in other cases to pay the bills.
The flip side of this is, even if an attorney would like to only accept car wrecks and personal injury cases, they will advertise for criminal defense and accept criminal defense cases because they must pay the bills…
Is it okay to hire a SC lawyer who does not focus solely on criminal defense cases?
Of course, it is – but you should do some research on the attorney and interview the attorney before making your decision. Some of the hands-down best criminal defense lawyers I know are also incredible plaintiff’s attorneys or divorce lawyers.
The questions you want to answer are 1) whether they have experience defending and trying criminal cases, 2) whether they are a fighter who will go to the mat for you in your criminal case, and 3) whether you are comfortable with the attorney and their office staff.
Talk to the attorney and their office staff, review their website, blog, and other online marketing, talk to former or current clients if possible, and decide whether the attorney is 1) a criminal defense lawyer who also handles other types of cases or 2) a real estate, divorce, or plaintiff’s lawyer who is “dabbling” in criminal defense to pay their bills.
Help Choosing a Criminal Attorney in SC: What Should You Look For?
If you have been charged with a crime, you have a lot at stake, and you need to trust that your attorney cares and has the experience to get the best result possible in your circumstances.
For many people, their search begins online – where you will find hundreds of attorneys who all imply that they have the experience you are looking for and that they are a fighter who will get your case dismissed with a one-two knockout punch…
Where do You Look for Information?
You can learn a lot from an online search. For example:
- Does the attorney advertise for criminal defense cases only, or are they a “Walmart” of law firms that advertises for any type of case that might bring in a paying client?
- If the attorney or law firm has a blog, does their writing focus on criminal defense issues?
- Does the content on the attorney’s website reflect an in-depth knowledge of criminal defense issues and trial practice, or does it look like a marketing agency writes the content with a focus solely on SEO and marketing?
- Does the attorney have disciplinary actions against them (if they do, there will be a link to the opinion on the SC Bar Directory)? If they do, what was the subject of the disciplinary action? A “badge of honor” where an attorney is held in contempt of court while fighting for their client’s rights may be viewed differently than an attorney who was disciplined for stealing from a client or failing to communicate with clients.
- What is the attorney’s “rating” on Avvo or other lawyer directories? Note that many attorneys refuse to “claim” their Avvo profiles or play the ratings game, which often results in an unjustified lower ranking. Despite this uncertainty, you can sometimes learn valuable information about an attorney from their online profiles.
- What do former clients have to say about the attorney on Avvo or Google reviews? Again, a note of caution – understanding that criminal defense attorneys often represent individuals with emotional or mental illnesses, you should 1) read all reviews together and 2) read negative reviews critically – if it sounds like a client is angry because they lost their case (which doesn’t necessarily reflect on the attorney’s abilities) or if their complaint is a rambling rant that just doesn’t make sense, consider that as well.
Your best sources of information when choosing a lawyer will be 1) online content, 2) former clients, and 3) an in-person interview of the attorneys you choose. A good rule of thumb is to meet with three attorneys before making a decision.
What are You Looking For?
What should you look for? Some considerations that should be important when choosing a lawyer include:
- Whether the attorney focuses solely on criminal defense or handles many different practice areas,
- Whether the attorney is knowledgeable about the particular legal issues in your case,
- The attorney’s trial experience – you probably do not want to retain an attorney who routinely encourages their clients to plead guilty without preparing their case for trial,
- The attorney’s fees – both 1) whether you can afford the attorney’s services and 2) the type of fee arrangements (if an attorney is billing hourly instead of charging a flat fee, for example, they are probably not primarily a criminal defense lawyer),
- Whether the attorney provides a detailed fee agreement – although the ethics rules may require attorneys to detail their fee agreement in writing, many attorneys do not,
- Whether the attorney is making promises or claims about the outcome of your case – despite the ethics rules, some attorneys will tell you what you want to hear until they have your fee in the bank. If an attorney says, “I will get your case dismissed,” there may be a problem and they might be acting unethically. If an attorney says, “I think we can get this dismissed,” and then provides a reasonable explanation for their prediction, that is more believable,
- Whether you are comfortable with the attorney’s staff – not every criminal defense attorney has office staff, but, if they do, those individuals may be your first point of contact and you should ensure you are comfortable with them, and
- Most importantly, whether you are comfortable with the attorney – do you trust them after speaking with them, or did they leave you feeling like a dollar sign? Do they seem like a solid fighter who will stand up to prosecutors and judges when the time comes? Are they knowledgeable, or did they seem like they were bull****ting you in your interview with them?
Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions when you interview a potential attorney – it’s your life, your finances, your family, your livelihood, your criminal record, and possibly your freedom on the line. Make a list of questions and issues that are important to you, and, whenever possible, take the time to find the right attorney for you and your case.
Criminal Defense Attorneys in Charleston, SC
Need help choosing a lawyer for your criminal case? Criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone is available to speak with you and answer your questions to determine whether our law firm is the right fit for you and your case.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in the Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, or Myrtle Beach, SC areas, call now at (843) 808-2100 or email us through our website to speak with a Charleston, SC defense attorney today.