Miami criminal defense lawyer Brian Tannebaum, e-book titled, “The Truth About Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer,” is a must-read for persons facing criminal prosecution. One of the unsavory aspects of practicing criminal defense is dealing with those clients who have misconceptions about criminal defense attorneys, and this e-book blows some of them out of the water. Hard copies of this text ought to be handed out to arrestees during booking (that would have to be by law of course, and not due to the arrestors desire to help out their arrestees).
On the importance of having the right attorney, he states that he is not talking to “the first time offender on a non violent minor case who has no aspirations to ever accomplish anything, like obtain credit, a mortgage, a job requiring a license, or about 300 other things that now subject people to a criminal background check. If you are now, and will be the rest of your life, a complete nothing, forget the lawyer and just handle it yourself.”
On the topic of “money,” he advises never to “call a lawyer you are thinking of hiring and ask how much he charges. He will immediately think you are cheap, broke, and that you will waste his time in a consultation.” He advises rather that you should hire a lawyer you feel comfortable with, who charges more money than you wanted to spend.
On the topic of lawyer advertising, he advises people not to fall for any type of advertising, but rather to requests referrals from those you trust, and then to do your research: visit websites, google their name, and ask some specific questions at the consultation, such as how much of your practice is criminal defense? (Anything under 50% leave, now).”
On the topic of “former prosecutors” advertising themselves as “former prosecutors,” he advises to hire one based only on his defense experience, and “definitely make sure if he has recently departed from the office, you ask why he left (no one ever does). And by all means, he says, stay far away from those former prosecutors who leave for civil firms and “take” some cases, since “they’re about as committed to criminal defense as the real estate lawyers in the firm.
Regarding “connections” – and this is a topic that I have frequently encountered – he advises those seeking a criminal defense attorney to disregard them. I have heard of many, many people going with a certain lawyer because of his or her “connections” with the judge or the prosecutor – or whomever. On this phenomena, Tannebaum states that no “incorruptible judge is going to suppress evidence because she’s friends with the lawyer, no prosecutor is going to ‘take a dive’ in court because he’s on the defense lawyer’s basketball team, and the most you can expect from a police officer is that because he knows the defense lawyer (and if he doesn’t hate the client for telling him to screw off at the arrest scene), he may tell the prosecutor to give you a break). He notes that “a good criminal defense lawyer with a great reputation has serious connections in the courthouse, and doesn’t talk about them. I once had a prospective client tell me that he was going to hire another attorney because he was told that this attorney plays golf with the judge (despite the fact that I knew this attorney did not play golf at all). Criminal defendants with this type of attitude usually end up getting bad results.
All-in-all, this is great advice that is not commonly known among those shopping for a criminal defense attorney, and although there are some other topics I would add, these are some of the most common misconceptions and mistakes made by those seeking criminal defense counsel.
I would add, that, before you commit to hiring a certain attorney, watch that person in the courtroom. Criminal defense attorneys are commonly in court, usually several times per week. You can tell a lot about what kind of representations you will get just by watching the person in routine motions or appearances before the court. And if you get an opportunity to watch the person try a case, then by all means, that is the most telling of all.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney