As a longtime criminal defense lawyer I frequently meet with people who are tasked with choosing a criminal defense lawyer to represent their interests. There are many pitfalls that a person needs to consider in hiring a lawyer, and price is just one.
There are many different lawyers, and nearly every one of those will have a different price. I can tell you that I will likely never be the cheapest lawyer, nor will I likely be the most expensive lawyer. I regularly have clients tell me that they are quoted prices by other lawyers that are half mine, or even twice mine.
I would advise a person to look carefully at what the price includes, for instance: 1) does it include the trial fees if the case goes to trial; 2) does it include the fees that will be required for private investigation; and 3) does it include the cost for things like expert witnesses that are necessary for motions and trial.
Trial fees can be incorporated into an upfront cost, or they can be left out, and charged later. I offer both options, depending on the type of case. If trial is included or not included in an initial quote, that can greatly affect the price. Attorneys will often charge several thousand dollars per day of trial, so it is important to look at this when considering price.
Private investigation also can be a significant expense. I know of cases where over $15,000 was spent on investigation alone, but the case was won on that investigation. In that type of situation, it makes all the sense in the world to spend the money. We never know which cases will require a high level of investigation. If an attorney is including private investigation in the fee, that is a substantial benefit that should not be overlooked. If someone is going to have to pay it later, on top of what they pay the attorney, they may end up spending a significant amount of money on this service. Every single case that goes to trial requires private investigation, and you should never rely on a defense attorney that doesn't undertake this investigation. Your attorney cannot do this investigation themselves, since they are not allowed to be a witness in court, in the cases that they provide representation on. Private Investigation Info
Expert witnesses can "make or break" your case. These witnesses may have scientific, medical, or other expertise that they can offer in your defense at trial. They are necessary, and this is not something that can be overlooked. The state has their own expert witnesses, that they use in every prosecution. These state witnesses can include toxicologists, doctors, police officers, and others that are paid by the state to offer their opinion as to issues in the trial. Expert witness fees can be very expensive. Most of the expert witnesses that we routinely use in our cases charge between $2,000 and $5,000 to even consult on a criminal case, these expenses can be much greater if extensive testimony is needed.
The fee an attorney charges can vary based on where the case is charged, as some courts and jurisdictions make a case significantly more difficult to defend. Some courts or prosecuting attorneys are known to be easier to deal with in some jurisdictions, while I know of others where our client will be forced to plead guilty as charged or go to trial in almost every circumstance. Most attorneys will charge more for a more challenging jurisdiction.
There are many factors that go into the price that an attorney charges, and it is important to compare "apples to apples" when looking at what one attorney is charging versus another.