For most people, being arrested for the first time is a frightening experience. If you have recently been charged with a crime, you are likely feeling a wide range of emotions. Along with worrying about the ultimate outcome of your case, you may also be feeling confused by the entire criminal process and intimidated by the thought of having to navigate the court system. The best thing you can do for yourself, and your future, is to retain the services of an experienced Nebraska criminal lawyer. A Nebraska criminal lawyer will ensure your rights are protected and assist you in navigating the criminal justice system as well as defend you against the charges you are facing. If you have never hired a criminal lawyer before, you may be unsure what questions to ask a prospective attorney. Although you may have additional questions about your specific circumstance, the following 10 questions are a good place to start:
- How long have you been practicing law? When it comes to the practice of law, there really is no substitute for experience. Of course, that is not to say an attorney with little experience cannot be effective, only that when your future is on the line, you may wish to hire an attorney with sufficient knowledge and experience to mount a proper defense.
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to criminal law? Experience, however, may not be as significant if that experience is in other areas besides criminal law. Everything about criminal law is different than civil law, from the procedural rules to the consequences of losing a case. Therefore, you should find out how much of an attorney’s practice is devoted to handling criminal cases
- How many jury trials have you handled? Another aspect which tends to set criminal law apart from civil law is the percentage of cases that actually go to trial. A criminal prosecution is much more likely to be resolved at trial than a civil lawsuit. A trial, though, can be a bench trial (decided by a judge) or a jury trial (decided by a jury). Representing a defendant at a jury trial requires a specific set of legal skills. As a potential client, you want to know how much experience an attorney has in front of a jury.
- Do you prefer to settle or try cases? Some attorneys push to resolve cases by negotiating a plea agreement; others tend to favor going to trial. It is best to know what an attorney’s tendencies are with regard to the manner in which they generally handle and resolve cases.
- What does the State of Nebraska have to prove to convict me? Although you may know what charges have been filed against you, do you know what elements make up those offenses? An experienced criminal lawyer should be able to explain exactly what the State must prove to convict you.
- How strong does the State’s case against me look? This is a critical question. Before you and your attorney can decide how to proceed, you need a knowledgeable opinion with regard to the strength of the State’s case against you.
- What punishment am I facing if convicted? Ask the attorney what judicial punishment you are facing, meaning what the judge could sentence you to if convicted. In addition, ask what non-judicial consequences you might face, such as the loss of your driver’s license, registration as a sex offender, or disqualification from carrying a firearm.
- Do you see any obvious defenses? While you will likely refine your defense down the road, you should ask the attorney what defenses he/she sees after a cursory review of the available information. This will give you an idea what direction the attorney would likely suggest upon taking your case.
- What kind of plea agreement do you think the prosecutor is likely to offer me? You may ultimately decide to take your case to trial. However, it is always good to have an idea what the State would offer you if you decided to accept a plea bargain.
- What will my defense cost? The reality is that a good defense will likely not come cheap. Hopefully, your decision to hire a specific attorney will not be based entirely on cost, but you do need to know what your defense will cost you in order to decide whether you can afford a specific attorney.
If you are currently facing criminal charges in Nebraska, it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal lawyer right away. In Nebraska, contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.
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