How Much Will a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost?
Facing federal criminal charges is an extremely serious matter. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Attorney’s Offices pick and choose the cases they pursue; and, if you are under investigation or facing an indictment, this means that prosecutors are eyeing your case for a conviction.
Given that federal criminal charges often carry years (if not decades) of prison time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, you need to defend yourself by all means available. You cannot afford to ignore your situation, and taking a wait-and-see approach will put you at an even greater disadvantage. But, does this mean that you need a lawyer? If so, how much will a federal criminal defense lawyer cost?
Why You Need a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer if You are Facing Federal Charges
The answer to the first question is a clear, “Yes.” If you are facing federal charges, you need a federal criminal defense lawyer. As we discuss in greater detail below, the cost of hiring a lawyer will be well worth it, and there are virtually no circumstances in which you should try to handle a federal criminal case on your own.
Why do you need a federal criminal defense lawyer? Here are five critical reasons:
1. Federal Criminal Cases are Unique from State Criminal Cases
First, facing federal criminal charges is an entirely different matter from facing charges in state court. From the procedures involved to the substantive issues that can make or break the prosecution’s case, just about everything is different in federal cases. In order to have any reasonable chance of success, you will need an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer on your side.
2. Federal Criminal Cases are Highly Complex
Federal criminal cases are highly complex. From the government’s investigation through the federal grand jury process and going to trial, every stage in the process requires an in-depth understanding of the laws and rules that apply.
3. Federal Criminal Cases are High-Risk
As we mentioned already, federal criminal cases are extremely high-risk. You could be facing years or decades of prison time in addition to crippling financial liability. In short, you have too much at stake not to do everything you possibly can to protect yourself—and this starts with putting a lawyer with relevant experience on your side.
4. There are Several Options for Achieving a Favorable Outcome
Regardless of the facts of your case, you will have defenses available. If the government is still investigating your case, you may be able to achieve a favorable outcome before charges get filed. But, in order to do so, you will need to rely on the strategic representation of an experienced attorney.
5. There are Limited Options for Overcoming a Conviction
While there are several options for achieving a favorable outcome pre-verdict, there are limited options for overcoming a conviction. As a result, regardless of the circumstances at hand, you cannot bank on overturning your verdict on appeal. If you failed to preserve grounds for appeal during your trial, even the best appellate lawyers won’t be able to help you.
Understanding the Costs of Hiring a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
So, those are some of the most-important reasons why you need to hire a federal criminal defense lawyer. Now, how much is it going to cost?
If you look around online, you will find articles saying that legal fees for federal criminal cases can range from $100 to $150 per hour up to $1,000 per hour or more. While this may technically be true, (a) this is an extremely broad range, and (b) hourly rates don’t tell the whole story.
If an attorney is only charging $100 or $150 per hour to handle federal criminal cases, this most likely is not an attorney you want representing you. Why? Because this is an extremely low rate for federal criminal cases. This type of rate suggests a significant lack of experience, and lack of experience is not something you can afford when your future is on the line.
Consider this: The federal government pays attorneys who agree to represent indigent defendants a rate of $148 to $190. Why would a lawyer charge this much (or less) while also paying for advertising when the lawyer could get this much simply by signing up with a federal public defender organization?
When it comes to the cost of hiring a federal criminal defense lawyer, you also need to understand the complexity of your case. The more complex your case, the more time it will take to build and execute your defense strategy—and the more it will cost as a result. Yes, higher hourly rates will add up more quickly. But, if a lawyer who charges more is able to get you a better result, this could actually end up costing you less if you are able to avoid a greater sentence. A more experienced lawyer may also be able to resolve your case more quickly—and this will reduce the overall cost of your representation as well.
Understanding the Costs of NOT Hiring a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
When considering the cost of hiring a federal criminal defense lawyer, it is also important to understand the costs you will face if you do not hire a lawyer to represent you.
First, there are the direct out-of-pocket costs of presenting an effective defense. Whether or not you hire a lawyer to represent you, these are costs you will need to incur. Copying costs, transcription costs, travel costs, expert witness fees—these all add up, and they will all be for nothing if you aren’t able to defend yourself effectively.
Then, there are the costs of facing a federal conviction and sentencing unnecessarily. It is not hyperbole to say that a federal conviction will impact all aspects of your life. Even setting aside fines and prison time (which, of course, you cannot actually ignore), a federal conviction will irreparably damage your reputation, it will significantly degrade your earning capacity, and it will have consequences for your family life as well.
While it costs money to hire a federal criminal defense lawyer, in the vast majority of cases, these costs will be outweighed—and usually significantly so—by the costs of facing unnecessary consequences. In fact, a reputable federal criminal defense lawyer won’t take your case if it isn’t worth it for you. With that said, in the vast majority of cases it will be well worth hiring a lawyer, and hiring a highly-experienced federal criminal defense lawyer will cost you less in the long run.
Why It Matters Greatly Who You Choose to Represent You
We’ve touched on this some already, but to be absolutely clear: It matters greatly who you choose to represent you. With all that you have at stake, the simple fact of the matter is that cost should not be the primary factor driving your decision. Consider these comparisons:
State Criminal Defense Lawyer vs. Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
A criminal defense lawyer who primarily practices in state court might be willing to take your federal case. While a lawyer might charge less in this scenario, you are effectively getting a discount for the lawyer’s lack of experience.
Federal Public Defender vs. Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
Many federal public defenders are very good at what they do. But, the problem is that they are also very busy. Public defenders often carry substantial caseloads; and, for many, resolving cases is as much about keeping their head above water as it is about ensuring that their clients achieve the best possible results.
Inexperienced Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer vs. Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
Generally speaking, lawyers increase their rates as they gain experience (although firm size, efficiency, and various other factors will influence lawyers’ rates as well). Do you want to pay less for less experience? Or, are you willing to pay more to make sure your lawyer has a comprehensive understanding of what it will take to defend you?
How You Can Reduce the Cost of Hiring a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you need a federal criminal defense lawyer, there is one critical step you can take to reduce the cost of your legal representation: You can contact a lawyer immediately.
While it might seem counterintuitive, getting a lawyer involved early can often significantly reduce the cost of defending a federal criminal case. This is especially true when the government’s investigation is still ongoing. If it is possible to resolve your case before you get indicted, this will allow you to avoid the time, stress, and cost of preparing for (and going to) trial.
Talk to a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C.
If you would like to learn our federal criminal defense lawyers’ rates and receive an estimate of how much it might cost for us to handle your case, we encourage you to get in touch. To speak with one of our senior lawyers in confidence, please call 888-680-1745 or tell us how we can reach you online today.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden, founder of Oberheiden P.C., focuses his litigation practice on white-collar criminal defense, government investigations, SEC & FCPA enforcement, and commercial litigation.