Attorney Fees in Criminal Defense Cases

If you find yourself in need of a criminal defense attorney, whether it is for a traffic violation or for something potentially more serious like a DWI or a drug crime, your first question will probably be: How much is it going to cost to hire a North Carolina criminal defense attorney?

In addition to wanting to know the amount of money you’ll likely have to spend, you’ll probably also wonder: How do the attorneys’ fees work?

While every case and every criminal defense attorney is different, here are the two most common fee structures in criminal defense cases and how they work in practice.

#1. The Hourly Rate: With the hourly rate fee structure, criminal defense attorneys are paid for their work by the hour. This means that for every hour spent working on your case, your attorney will charge you an agreed-upon hourly rate. After a certain amount of time, he will then send you a bill detailing what he worked on up to that point, how many hours he spent on it, and the total amount you owe.

Occasionally, attorneys who work on an hourly rate are paid a retainer fee, which is an advance payment that a client makes to the lawyer before he begins working on the case. Retainer fees are most commonly seen in cases that are likely to be longer-term (as opposed to a speeding ticket or a traffic stop) and might require going to trial.

#2. The Flat (or Fixed) Fee: In this popular fee structure, a client pays the criminal defense attorney a set fee for representing him in a specific case.

Depending on the complexity of the case and the fee amount, an attorney will often ask for a percentage of the fee up-front, before beginning to work on the case. The rest can be paid in future installments as the case progresses.

There is a third type of fee structure that you may have heard of – the contingent fee. This is where a fee is paid to a lawyer only if a case is successful. Contingent fee arrangements are only used when money is being claimed, such as a personal injury lawsuit, and are never allowed when a lawyer represents a defendant in a criminal case. You should steer clear of any lawyer who suggests a contingent fee arrangement for your criminal case.

No matter what fee arrangement you and your criminal defense attorney choose, you should agree upon all of the terms with your attorney ahead of time and make sure you and he are on the same page. While there is never a guarantee that you will receive a favorable outcome, no matter what fee structure is followed, your criminal defense attorney will strive to do his or her best to achieve one.

Attorney Cotten has served thousands of satisfied clients through Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. Give him a call or click over to the main page to chat with a legal assistant – any time, day or night.