Why Criminal Defense Attorneys Want Their Fees Up Front in Advance

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In a dank Law Office across the street from the Long Beach Courthouse one morning about 10:30 am:

“$8,000! Crap! I dont have that kind of money. Can I make payments? I have car payments, union dues, house payment.”
“I just gave the bailbond dude $3,000 and he didnt do anything to help me. You just told me I’m going to jail, and you want $8,000? I dont have that. I have a good job, and I can make payments.”
“Does your mom have any money?”
“Sorry, I cant help you. You should ask for a Public Defender. Thanks for stopping bye by.”


So the conversation goes, everyday in cities all across the US. Defendant and potential Client wants to hire a good Criminal Defense Attorney for their case, but the attorney wants real money in advance. No promises. Cash preferred.

Why? Why are lawyers so greedy? Even Target offers credit. Here’s the answer.

1. Once a Defense Attorney Becomes the Attorney of Record, It Is Difficult for him/her to Get Out of the Case.

In most criminal cases, whether misdemeanor or felony, a Defense Attorney of record is required to continue working on the case and defending the client until the very end, whether or not they are getting paid. In many situations, if a defense attorney wants to be relieved from a case, he/she must get the judge’s permission. Judges rarely set a Defense Attorney free based upon the fact that the Attorney is not getting paid.

Most judges appear to take the position that if the Attorney takes the risk of having a criminal client without getting paid, it is the Attorney’s risk alone. The court process shall not be disrupted by a bad decision by the Attorney on payment terms.

Cash doesn't get rejected or recalled by a bank when a convicted client complains.

Cash doesn’t get rejected or recalled by a bank when a convicted client complains.

A classic example of an Attorney trying to get out of a case, but being unable to is that of now convicted murder Jodi Arias. Her Defense Attorney asked for permission to withdraw from the case immediately before the penalty phase began. But Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens of Maricopa Arizona Superior Court denied the request.

2. The Attorney Knows You Might Lose Your Job.

Just about every experienced Criminal Defense Attorney has had a client show up and say, “hey man, I just found out that my boss found out, and I lose my job. Can I pay you double next month?”

The truth is many people charged with crimes, including driving under the influence and domestic violence lose their jobs shortly after arrest.

It happens to commercial drivers, teachers, and even everyday police officers. The Attorney does not want his/her livelihood to depend upon the repercussions of your case.

3. You Might Be Going to Jail.

In just about all criminal cases, jail time is a possible outcome. Defense Attorneys are required to tell their clients what the maximum penalty for their charge is, even if it is not likely that it will be imposed. Some Defendants do end up going to jail, no matter how well the defense attorney does their job.

Even a short jail term of a few days can cause the loss of a job, a rental house, a car, and a major disruption to a defendant’s life. Because of this, once in jail, it is very unlikely that a client will pay their Defense Attorney for any outstanding balance.

4. Things Might Go Bad For You, and You Are Going to Blame the Attorney.

Just about everyone charged with a crime claims to be innocent at some point. The bad news is that the police are already convinced they are guilty. And there is usually some evidence that the Defendant seems to ignore. In all criminal cases, there is a possibility that it will end in a conviction, regardless of what the Defendant thinks should happen. Frequently, when a case goes bad for a defendant, the defendant blames the bad result on the attorney’s work. Some Defendants never get out of denial.

Once it becomes clear that a case is not going to be dismissed and that a conviction is probably coming, it is very difficult to get a client to pay their outstanding legal fee balance. Attorneys suck in this position, with a client who blames them for a bad result, are reluctant to sue to collect because it rarely works out good for the attorney.

A classic example of the “client Blaming the Attorney for a Bad Result” phenomenon is the OJ Simpson Motion for New Trial in Clark County, Nevada Court that is taking place this week. In that Habeous Corpus Petition, OJ is asking a judge for a new trial based upon the fact that his attorney was so incompetent, OJ ended up in prison.

5. A Criminal Defense Attorney Does Not Know How Long Your Case Will Take or How Much Work is Required.

Every criminal case is different. Sometimes an Attorney gets real lucky and is able to negotiate a great resolution of a case in 20 minutes, by pointing out the troubles in the crime lab where they allegedly stored your cocaine. Other times, the case will drag on for 2 years and require hundreds of hours of stressful, sucky work.

If the Attorney does a fabulous job fast and efficiently, they want all of their money just the same as if it took 2 years. And if your case gets dismissed on the first day due to brilliant motion to suppress, and you still owe the Attorney $5,000, what are the chances you are going to pay as agreed? Zero.

There you have it. That is why Criminal Defense Attorneys want all of their fees paid in advance. We dont endorse it, just the facts ma’m.

Does that mean that no attorneys take payment plans? No. Some do. Dont be afraid to ask.

Tips for being able to pay an Attorney if you need to for a real criminal case? Dont waste money on bailbond contracts, tow yard fees for a car you cannot use, or to fix that window you put your fist through.

OK – we hope it helps. Questions? Leave a reply.

About Defendant Waiting Behind U

Person standing in line behind you at the court listening to you practice your speech.
This entry was posted in Defense Attorneys, Felony, Jail, Misdemeanor and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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