Whether for a simple misdemeanor or a complicated felony charge, it is a good idea to obtain the services of a good criminal defense attorney. Attorneys know the law and may be able to work out a reasonable solution with the prosecutor without the need for a lengthy or costly trial. Criminal defense attorneys typically charge an average of $200 per hour, however, that can vary from $100 per hour up to $400 per hour. Several factors determine the cost — the type of criminal charge, amount of time the attorney has practiced, and their experience in the field, as well as other factors like overhead.
Criminal Defense Attorney Fee Breakdown
There are two types of attorney fees to be aware of – retainers and flat fees. The retainer may vary even with the same attorney or firm based on the type of case and the location of the court, whereas a flat fee does not change even if the case takes longer than anticipated, depending on what the contract with your attorney says explicitly.
Retainers are very common and are usually required prior to an attorney taking on your case. The retainer is paid upfront and the attorney will draw their hourly rate from that amount before billing you. Hopefully, your case is resolved within that initial retainer amount, but if not, then you will be billed at the contracted hourly rate.
Factors that determine the retainer amount include the hourly rate of the specific attorney, the specific case type and details, and the location of the court. For example, your case can vary significantly from another case, even if both cases are filed under the same law or statute. Additionally, many attorneys practice in several cities and counties but are based in a specific city. If you hire an attorney that will have to travel further than where they are based, you will likely be charged for their travel time and possibly cost. Finally, attorneys within the same firm can charge different retainers because they have different hourly rates.
Because attorneys have different levels of experience in their fields, some specialize in only one area of law, while others work in several areas, their hourly rates can be very different – even within the same firm. For example, you may have three attorneys in one firm wherein one practices criminal law only full-time, one practices criminal law and civil law about 60-40 respectively, and the other practices criminal and family law about 50-50. Because of these differences, the attorney that practices criminal law full-time may be slightly higher than the other two because he or she is more specialized in that area of law.
Other factors that affect hourly rates may be what is included in the cost of overhead. While you, as a client, may not necessarily see the benefit directly of the overhead costs, that generally includes the office space, staff, and things like legally required insurance. Because these benefit the attorney that works for you, they benefit you indirectly, but a qualified staff can also certainly benefit you directly.
Flat fee contracts are typically not common, except for simple criminal cases. Experienced attorneys can usually glean which cases are most appropriate for these types of arrangements. It is nice to know exactly how much you will be paying, but know that it is possible to pay more in legal fees if your case is resolved very quickly, as flat fees are usually non-refundable.
Court fees may or may not be taken out of the retainer, that depends on the attorney’s practice. Court fees can vary based on the case type and the city, county, or state. Other additional costs can include fines owed to the court, trial preparation fees, witness fees, and more.