Fees & Costs
Criminal defense cases put everything on the line: your reputation, your money, your freedom, sometimes your life. Defending yourself from an allegation that you have committed a crime is a life crisis – it’s an emotional, terrifying time. We understand this. Regretfully, some lawyers will take advantage of the client’s fear of the unknown and will charge a fee and demand a payment structure designed to capitalize on the client’s vulnerability and anxiety. We find this exploitation very unethical.
A lawyer’s fee should be based upon
- how much time the lawyer anticipates investing in the client’s case;
- multiplied by the hourly rate the lawyer charges which is based upon the lawyer’s skill level, expertise, and the complexity of the case.
Because of the variables in a criminal case, a criminal lawyer does not begin representation first, and then later provide an accounting of his time and send an invoice to the client.
A criminal lawyer is paid a retainer fee up front which should cover a certain amount of representation which should be clearly understood by the client and outlined in a written fee agreement signed by the client and the attorney before representation begins.
It is important to understand there are various stages of any criminal case. A lawyer can get involved in a client’s case pre-arrest or post arrest as long as it is pre-indictment and the lawyer is not bound by the Court to continue representation through trial. Said differently, once a citizen has been formally charged; by indictment in a federal case or involving a felony, or by acusation involving a misdemeanor, and a lawyer files an Entry of Appearance or appears for the client in Court, the lawyer can be required to represent the client for the balance of the case, including a trial, regardless of whether the lawyer has been paid in full. This is the reason many criminal lawyers seek full payment before they begin representation.
However, at the Ford Law Firm we believe it is only fair to require payment up front for what needs to be done right now based upon the procedural status of the case.
You should not need to pay a lawyer for trial preparation and trial if the case is dismissed before you are indicted.
We base our fees on what needs to be done to protect the client at the time of being hired and you only pay for the service you receive. This Firm will not exploit your anxiety and expect to be paid a large fee up front for representation and time invested that may not materialize in the future.
When you hire us, you will know exactly what services you are paying for and how far that particular retainer fee will last. And you have this information in writing, in a signed, binding contract. As outlined in the written Agreement of Representation, the fee you will pay us will cover our time involved in representation for the services we have agreed upon.
What is not covered in that fee agreement is if additional services are desired by the client to facilitate their defense. Some client’s will need a transcript prepared from previous hearings. Other client’s will want to retain the services of an expert witness to aid in their defense. However, none of the additional expenses, if necessary, will be incurred without you, the client, agreeing it is a necessary expense and you authorizing the additional service.
As for expenses, they will be unique to each case and the client will be responsible for deciding the depth of expense incurred. Expenses in a criminal defense case can include a wide variety of experts, including private investigators, polygraphers, crime scene investigators, accident reconstruction experts, forensic scientists (blood splatter, fingerprints, handwriting, DNA, etc.), computer experts (hardware, software, hacking, etc.) as well as a variety of medical doctors, or clinical psychologists and psychiatrists in a variety of specialty fields. As part of the criminal defense team, the client will help decide the extent of costs that are reasonable and necessary to be placed in escrow and incurred as expenses in the case.
Have questions about fees or expenses? Please feel free to call the Ford Law Firm and ask for details. We’re here for you.