When should an attorney be hired in a criminal case?
Updated: Mar 22
The answer to this question is going to depend largely on your particular situation and finances. The best thing to do is hire an attorney as soon as you know there are, or may be, criminal charges against you. This will most often occur when one is arrested.
There are situations, however, where law enforcement brings you in for questioning before criminal charges are filed. In these situations it is critical that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney. Even if you are answering questions honestly, law enforcement likely knows more than they are letting on and there is a significant risk that you can say things that can later be used against you in a criminal case.
Also, if hired before or within 24 hours of arrest, a lawyer can be present for your first appearance to argue your release from jail or get you an affordable bond.
If you are unable to hire an attorney immediately upon questioning or immediately upon arrest, hiring an attorney before arraignment is the next best time. Before arraignment is when the State speaks with victims and witnesses and determines if there is enough evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will not talk to you. It is important that you have an attorney talking with the prosecutor during this important decision-making period to ensure that the prosecutor gets the entire story and not just what law enforcement presents to them.
There is no deadline in hiring an attorney. You may do so at any time in your criminal case. Between arraignment and pre-trial conferences or case managements is still an acceptable time to hire an attorney.
The only time it may (not always) pose a problem is hiring an attorney right before the trial date. While nothing prohibits from hiring an attorney right before trial, the lawyer may not have sufficient time to get discovery and prepare for trial. Sometimes judges will give the new lawyer a continuance, but it is not always guaranteed.
At Soler & Simon, our attorneys have extensive experience with all charges and processes in criminal cases. If you are looking to hire an attorney, at any point in your case, please do not hesitate to contact Soler & Simon at (941) 444-5128.