Being charged with a criminal felony is scary. Depending on the charge, the consequences if found guilty can include significant fines and prison time. Obviously, finding a good attorney is extremely important for a situation like this, but the cost is also daunting. You’ve probably heard stories from people you know about how much lawyers charge, whether for criminal cases, divorce proceedings, or civil lawsuits. Before you go in search of a lawyer for a felony charge, consider this: how much do lawyers charge for felonies? It’s best to be armed with knowledge as you make such a big decision as hiring an attorney.
Each Case is Unique
Every case is unique and many factors determine what the total cost is by the time it concludes. The number and types of witnesses, for example, can make a big difference in the total cost. Every witness that testifies is paid a witness fee, however, where that really adds up is with investigators and expert witnesses. These types of witnesses might be drug and alcohol testing experts or a psychologist and often require a retainer fee plus an hourly rate. How these fees are paid depends on the attorney, but often they hold a trust account with your funds and payout of that account. So although you may pay these monies to the attorney, that doesn’t mean that it is going to the attorney and that is one reason that lawyers provide itemized bills to their clients.
There are several factors that determine what the attorney charges. For one, some attorneys charge a flat fee, but for a felony that is not common as those are typically going to be more complicated cases. Attorney’s fees are determined based on the average fees in the area based on the attorney’s skill level. For example, an attorney in New York City is most likely going to be more expensive than an attorney in Paris, Texas. Then, consider the years of experience – an attorney that has practiced law for 30 years will likely cost more than an attorney that has only practiced for 2 years. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but on average, that is what you can expect.
Opposing Counsel Matters, Too
Another aspect to consider is who the prosecutor is – because just as different defense attorneys have their own style, so do prosecutors. If your defense attorney is typically good at negotiating and the prosecutor has that reputation as well, then your defense attorney may charge a smaller retainer upfront.
Your case will cost less if a trial is not needed, but if it is, you can expect to pay more because more time is spent preparing for the trial and in court for the trial itself. This applies to both the witnesses, experts, and the attorney.
Okay, But How Much Does It Cost, Really?
Down to brass tax, though, attorney fees typically run around $300 per hour for an experienced attorney in a metropolitan area, although they can range from $100 to $750 per hour. Additionally, they will likely charge a retainer upfront as well. Their fees will be taken out of that retainer first and then you will be billed once the retainer is gone – if needed. The retainers vary as well, but $5,000 would be expected. Overall, you can expect to pay a total of $10,000 to $100,000, when it’s all said and done. Again, how complex the case is, the individual attorney’s experience level, and even who the prosecutor is can all make a difference. Most attorneys will work out payment plans with you, but they do expect to be paid for their services, even if it takes a long time.