Finding yourself under arrest for the first (and hopefully only) time is a frightening enough experience without adding in the continued worry about the outcome of the charges. Moreover, navigating the criminal justice system for the first time can also be challenging. The most important thing you can do for yourself, and your future, is to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. That, however, brings up yet another issue – attorney fees. If you have never needed to hire a criminal defense attorney before, you probably don’t know how criminal defense attorneys decide their fees.
Types of Attorney Fees
As you likely already know, there are numerous different areas of the law and, consequently, numerous different types of attorneys who focus on those various areas of the law. There are three different types of fees which attorneys charge. The type of law an attorney practices, or the type of case in question, usually determines which type of fee structure is used. The three types of fees include:
- Hourly rate – this type of fee is used most often in civil litigation. When an attorney bills by the hour, the client is typically required to give the attorney a retainer at the beginning of the case. The amount of the retainer is determined by how many hours the attorney estimates will be spent on the case. The attorney keeps track of time spent on the case and bills that time against the retainer. If the retainer runs low, the client will likely be required to provide additional funds.
- Contingency fee – this type of fee is most commonly used for personal injury lawsuits or benefits cases (such as Social Security disability or workers’ compensation). The attorney receives a percentage of the funds secured for the client under this type of fee arrangement. If the attorney is unsuccessful in securing funds on behalf of the client, the attorney receives nothing. In most states, including Nebraska, attorneys are strictly prohibited from charging a contingency fee for criminal matters.
- Flat fee – as the name implies, when an attorney charges a flat fee the total fee for representing the client throughout the prosecution of the case is determined up front. Some attorneys require the entire fee to be paid up front; however, others only require a down payment with the remainder to be paid in payments. Many criminal defense attorneys use this type of fee structure.
How Is the Fee for a Specific Case Determined?
Attorneys decide how much they will charge for a case. Consequently, two different attorneys might charge very different fees for the same case. Factors an attorney would likely consider when deciding the fee for a case include:
- Severity of charges – a criminal defense attorney can expect to spend considerably more time, as a general rule, on a felony case than on a misdemeanor case. Likewise, a capital case will likely require more time than a lesser felony.
- Client’s history – a defendant who has prior convictions may face additional penalties and/or the prosecutor may be less inclined to be lenient. This typically means that the case is either more likely to go to trial or it will be more difficult to negotiate an acceptable plea agreement.
- Court system – although the law remains the same from one county to the next, the reality is that one court, or court system, may be known for being tougher than another.
- Prosecuting attorney – the same can be said for the prosecuting attorney handling the case. Some are known for being reasonable and lenient while others have a reputation for being tough and intolerant.
- Clients wishes – ultimately, the client decides how a case is resolved – by going to trial or accepting a guilty plea. A trial will take up more time and, therefore, an attorney may charge a higher fee if the client is adamant that he/she is not guilty.
Contact Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the state of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away to discuss possible defenses. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.