Understanding Criminal Lawyer Fees

Posted on: 17 October 2016

Felony charges are serious business, which means you will want to get a lawyer that represents your interests. Finding a felony defense lawyer to work with is only part of the solution – you also have to make sure you can afford the representation. Unlike civil matters, where most lawyers take their fees from the settlement, criminal lawyers will require that their fees are paid regardless if the case is won or not. The following guide can help you better understand and navigate the lawyer fees.

How are fees charged?

Lawyers generally charge fees in one of two manners:

  • Case billing. This is a flat fee that the lawyer charges, usually reserved for specific types of cases. For example, a lawyer may offer a flat fee for handling DUI cases. If your case ends up being more involved, you will have the benefit of a low legal cost. On the other hand, if the case is settled quickly, you will not get a refund of any portion of the fee.

  • Hourly fees. Hourly charges are also very common, especially in felony cases that are less cut and dry in how long they typically take to work. For example, vehicular manslaughter, domestic violence, and crimes of passion often require more hours of research and in court, so your lawyer may request hourly billing.

Is there a way to manage hourly fees?

It may seem like hourly fees can quickly get out of hand, but fortunately many lawyers offer a cap. This means that the lawyer will estimate how many hours they think the case will be billed at so that you can make an informed decision on the cap amount. Your lawyer will then work to complete the case beneath the cap, although they may recommend that you raise it if the case is more complicated or detailed than originally expected.

Are retainer fees necessary?

While not required by law, most felony lawyers will require a retainer fee before they will begin working the case. The purpose of the retainer is to ensure that they get paid for the case no matter what the final outcome is. Generally, the retainer is a set number of hours. Once you have used those hours, you will need to renew the retainer by paying in more towards the next set of hours. If the lawyer uses less hours, then they will refund you the unused portion of the retainer.

Will the lawyer have additional fees?

There may be fees that aren't covered by hourly or case billing. Some lawyers have an additional trial fee, for example. There may also be document handling fees, expert witness fees, or fees for appeals. Make sure that you are aware of all fees before signing on a lawyer.

For more help in navigating legal fees, contact a felony lawyer in your area.