Green Dollar Sign, Isolated On White

Okay folks, in this week’s roundup of questions that 99% of attorneys don’t like to answer, we’re going to tackle the most often asked, and least answered question… How much should my criminal attorney cost?

First, we have to point out that the reason this question tends to be the most taboo of all is that we actually don’t know the answer until we talk to you. At the end of the day, most criminal defense attorneys charge what is known as a flat fee. This means that the attorney charges $X,XXX to get you to a certain place in your case, regardless of the number of hours of work involved. That being said, if you’ve been around awhile, you know that it takes, on average, 10.5 hours of work to get a misdemeanor to a plea bargain, and 21.5 hours to get a felony to plea bargain. This is usually where we get our numbers from. Some criminal defense attorneys factor the hours at $500/hour, and some at $200/hour. At the Kokosa Law Firm, we generally factor $300/hour unless there are extenuating circumstances. We often give students and seniors generous discounts because these individuals often live on fixed incomes. We sometimes take cases at cost, if we believe in the case. Essentially, this means we charge just about what it would cost us to handle the case without attorney fees attached. We also discount any flat fee that is paid up front.

So what does that mean for your case?

Criminal defense attorneys know that certain types of cases take less time to handle than others. A first time DWI with no corresponding accident, for instance, is going to take a few hours less than an Assault case, which means that the cost is going to be less. However, if we know that you want a trial verdict rather than a plea bargain, it could cost more, because there will be more hours of work involved. Generally speaking, however, these are the factors that affect your criminal defense attorney’s fee:

  1. Seriousness of the offense (Violation, Misdemeanor, Felony);
  2. Whether you walk in on day one wanting a trial vs. whether you ask for the best outcome under the circumstances;
  3. Prior criminal record;
  4. Whether another party is hurt or injured;
  5. Whether you gave a statement to the police.

Of course, there are about 100 other small factors that come into play during our initial conversation that may affect what the fee may be, but these five main factors comprise the bulk of what your quote is going to be.

Just using DWI for example, in the last month we charged five different people five different rates. $3500, $3000, $1875, $2200, and $1400. Each case was as remarkably different as the person who came into our office. Some wanted trials, some wanted plea bargains. Some blew high numbers, some blew low numbers. Last year I charged $1200 for a case where the defendant was charged with two particularly bad assault type charges. I didn’t feel the need to charge very much because I thought I could get the case would be dismissed within the first couple appearances. I was right.

So, to answer the question of how much should you pay your attorney… there is no right or wrong answer. You can get a ballpark figure, though, by looking at the five questions above and asking whether your response is above average or below average. If you are “average”, then figure the attorney’s hourly fee times 10 for a misdemeanor or 20 for a felony and that is your fee if you are looking for a plea bargain resolution. A trial costs exponentially more and no attorney can give you a decent quote without at least discussing the facts with you.

The major take away, is that you need to pick an attorney that you are comfortable talking about these facts with. Honestly, I’ve consulted with some people and told them that we aren’t the right fit. It’s nothing against the client or myself. If someone wants a bulldog and you know their type of case needs a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you and the client will save money, time, and energy getting them connected with the type of lawyer that works best for their purposes. After all, the decisions are yours to make, we can only advise you based on what we know from training and experience.

Again, as we always disclaim, this blog is only for purposes of discussion and does not create an attorney-client relationship between us, you, or your neighbor. You’ve got to sign a retainer agreement for that. However, we always offer a free consultation on criminal cases and you are welcome to call us any time at (518) 907-4694 or text us at (518) 466-3062. Even if it’s late, someone usually answers the phone or calls you back rather quickly.

Oh, and Traffic ticket you ask? Usually $200 per ticket 🙂