Are you one of the many Minnesotans who were charged with a crime in 2020? Then you may be in the market for a criminal defense attorney who can help defend your rights.
Finding good Brainerd, Minnesota criminal defense is easier said than done, though. That’s why we’re bringing you this guide.
Below, we’ll explain the difference between criminal and civil attorneys, discuss the exact type of criminal defense lawyer you need, and guide you through some qualities to look for. Keep reading for everything you need to know.
Criminal vs. Civil Attorneys
In the United States, we generally distinguish between two types of law: criminal and civil law. Criminal laws apply after someone breaks US law and/or commits a crime. Civil laws apply to almost all other legal cases.
You can also differentiate between criminal vs. civil cases based on the outcome. A criminal conviction can result in jail or even prison time. Meanwhile, in civil cases, the defendant usually seeks compensation, but neither jail nor prison time is on the table.
Both criminal cases and civil cases can end either with settlement or trial. However, the government usually brings criminal cases. Individual people or private organizations typically file civil lawsuits.
In most states, criminal lawyers do not try civil cases and vice versa. But there have been cases where a defendant receives a criminal and civil charge for the same offense. In some states, there are even different judges for criminal vs. civil cases; Minnesota isn’t one of those states, though.
Of course, there are additional differences between criminal and civil cases and attorneys in Minnesota. But these differences are beyond the scope of this article.
What Kind of Criminal Defense Attorney Do You Need?
By now, you should know that you need a criminal defense lawyer to take your case. But to complicate matters worse, there are many different types of defense attorneys who specialize in different criminal charges.
For example, consider the most common criminal charges: property crimes (e.g., theft and arson), drug and alcohol crimes (e.g., DWI and drug possession), violent crimes (e.g., assault), and fraud (e.g., identity theft and business fraud).
For each of these crimes, there’s an attorney who specializes in defending against it. That’s why some attorneys market themselves as DUI lawyers while others will specialize in assault or fraud.
In sum, the type of criminal defense attorney you need is the one who specializes in the crime you were charged with. Not only that, you should choose an attorney who has an extensive success record of getting offenders like you the best possible outcome.
What other qualities should your criminal lawyer have? We’re talking about those next, so keep reading.
Qualities to Look for in Good Criminal Defense Attorneys
The first thing you should do before hiring any lawyer is to check his or her credentials. Here are some resources to help you do just that:
- The Minnesota State Bar Association Find a Lawyer directory
- The Minnesota Judicial Branch lawyer license search
- Minnesota’s list of disbarred and suspended attorneys
Otherwise, here are the top qualities your chosen criminal attorney should possess.
In most cases, criminal charges go to district courts first. In Minnesota, there are 10 judicial courts to cover Minnesota’s 87 counties and about 289 judges who hear both criminal and civil cases.
Why does that matter? It’s important to choose an attorney who has experience with your local district court system. A local attorney will know court judges and prosecutors, as well as their habits. Having this knowledge can help get you a more favorable outcome.
Plus, your attorney’s local knowledge can help you understand what to (and what not to) expect from your case.
The biggest difference between a high-quality attorney and an average one is success rate. And what’s the best way to determine a lawyer’s success rate? A good professional reputation can help.
To learn more about how the legal community views an attorney, you can use the resources we listed above.
Also, check the criminal attorney’s website. Ann Attorney of the Year designation or SuperLawyers insignia is an excellent sign you’re dealing with a reputable professional.
Another good strategy for finding criminal lawyers with strong reputations is to read online reviews and ask for references. We’ll touch more on this later.
In Minnesota, criminal charges are serious matters. Immediate action is the best action, and you don’t want to be waiting around for your criminal attorney to get back to you. That’s why hiring a lawyer who communicates responsively is critical.
But how exactly can you determine a lawyer’s communication style? First, it’s important to schedule a consultation, so you can meet with him or her face to face. It’s a bad sign if a lawyer’s office doesn’t return your call promptly or is difficult to get ahold of.
Secondly, pay attention to how the criminal attorney speaks to you during the consultation. Does he or she answer all your questions and explain concepts thoroughly? If the criminal lawyer you’re researching fails either of the above tests, keep searching.
When you’re searching for a Minnesota criminal attorney, you might come across lawyers who advertise themselves as aggressive. You don’t want an aggressive lawyer. An aggressive lawyer could drag out your case longer than necessary, costing you money.
What you do want is a criminal attorney who uses an aggressive representation style. And what does that mean? Aggressive representation means your lawyer will be ready to aggressively fight when all other reasonable defense methods have failed.
Aggressive legal representation is your best bet for a positive outcome. Plus, aggressive representation styles can usually save you legal fees in the long run.
Retaining a criminal attorney isn’t cheap, and your lawyer should know that. That’s why any good criminal attorney should provide a transparent cost structure. In other words, he or she should tell you how much you’ll have to pay for legal services.
Most attorneys charge with either a flat fee or an hourly rate. According to Rule 1.5 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, it’s illegal for an attorney to charge a contingent fee for a criminal case.
There are pros and cons to flat fees and hourly rates. Hourly rates are better for simple criminal cases as the total cost of representation can come out cheaper.
However, for more complicated cases (which criminal cases often are), a flat fee can help you understand the total cost of representation and keep costs down. More on this later.
How to Find the Best Criminal Lawyer in Minnesota
So, we’ve guided you through the most important qualities any good criminal attorney should have. But how exactly do you find a lawyer with these characteristics? That’s what we’re talking about next.
Ask for Referrals
Do you know anyone who has been charged with the same crime as you? It’s always a great idea to ask friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances for referrals. No one is going to refer you to an attorney they don’t trust or who didn’t do a good job.
Of course, make sure you’re getting referred to an attorney who specializes in the type of criminal charge you’re facing.
If you can’t find a referral, the next step is to read online reviews. Check out local criminal attorneys’ websites and read the reviews they’ve posted. Then, compare those reviews to ones you find on third-party sites like Yelp.
Don’t let a few bad reviews scare you away, though. If the overall sentiment is positive, that’s a good sign you’ve found a high-quality defense attorney.
Schedule a Consultation
The next step after reading reviews is to schedule a consultation. Many criminal lawyers offer a free initial consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Of course, make sure you narrow down your attorney picks to a handful of options or, better yet, your top three choices.
During your consultation, remember to ask plenty of questions and pay attention to the attorney’s communication style.
Ask the Right Questions
We just mentioned that you should ask questions during your initial consultation. But it’s hard to know what to ask if you’ve never hired a lawyer before. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- How long have you been practicing in Minnesota?
- How long have you specialized in the crime I was charged with?
- What’s your success and failure rate?
- What’s your communication style?
- How often should I expect to hear from you?
- What’s your defense strategy for my case?
- What kind of outcome can I reasonably expect in my case?
- What’s your fee structure?
- If you charge an hourly fee, can you provide a rough estimate of the total cost of representation?
- If you charge a flat fee, what services are included?
When it comes to criminal law, there are no bad questions. So, make sure you come up with a list of the most important questions you’ve been thinking about and bring them to the consultation.
Get a Free Consultation With the Best Criminal Defense Attorney in Minnesota
If you were arrested for a crime in Minnesota, it’s critical to hire a criminal defense attorney who specializes in the crime you were charged with. Use this guide to help you find the best attorney with the qualities that suit your needs.
Are you searching for the best criminal defense attorney that serves Brainerd, Minnesota? Schedule a free case evaluation with Carlson & Jones to speak with one of our expert criminal defense lawyers.