How Criminal Defense Attorneys Structure Their Fees

criminal attorney fee structure

Accused of a serious crime?

Unfortunately, it’s not going to be cheap to defend. Well, it can be if you want an unskilled or inexperienced attorney. But if you want skilled legal representation and the minimum punishment possible, you have to be willing to pay for it. Good lawyers know their value and charge accordingly.

That being said, there’s a number of ways different lawyers charge. Take a look at some of those so you understand what to expect in criminal court:

1. Personal Injury Lawyers: Charge a Percentage of the Final Settlement Value

Depending on the case, these cases can be way outside the affordability of most Americans. Most personal injury lawyers charge 1/3 of the case’s final settlement value. So if it’s a $100,000 settlement, they take $33,333, and they only collect this fee if they win. Personal injury includes cases like auto accidents, slip-and-falls, medical malpractice, defective products, and many more

2. Corporate Lawyers

These guys get paid by the hour. Money gets deposited into an escrow account. Out of all lawyers, these guys have the potential to make the biggest salaries.

What they do can vary widely. They may act as a general legal counsel to the corporation. They might defend the corporation in lawsuits.

Or they might help in mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs. There’s a ton more duties they could take on too.

3. Criminal Defense Lawyers

Ahhh…on to what you really want to read about. Criminal defense attorneys get paid a retainer fee up front and then take payments over time. And that retainer fee changes with the case. For example, a DWI charge takes less work to defend than a charge of first degree murder.  Also, depending on what is necessary to accomplish your goals, the final total fee may be higher or lower.

For example, if necessary, trial fees are charged additionally. Most cases are resolved without trials. That’s because the justice system could never support the time and cost if every case had go to trial. Trials cost everyone time and money.  If the client is satisfied that he would be found guilty after a thorough review of the evidence against him and a reasonable punishment can be negotiated, then a trial becomes counterproductive for both parties and the courts.

But in some cases, agreements just can’t be reached and in others the client is clearly not guilty. Prosecutors may be unreasonable, thinking they can get a conviction and/or a jail sentence for much longer than you actually deserve.

So trials become necessary.

As an example of how high the costs can be, once you include court fees, a simple DWI charge can cost a total of $10,000 – $15,000 to defend.

The Real Question you Have to Ask Yourself is … “What is your freedom worth to you?”

Public defenders cost nothing, or next to it. But the problem with public defenders is they have overwhelming case loads. So they don’t have the time to research your case and give you the best defense possible. And you may not even be able to get in contact with them, except during the actual hearings and trial. Plus, they’re usually young and inexperienced.

If you’re accused of a crime, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. You won’t regret it.