Should I Bail Out or Hire a Lawyer?
Explained by a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer
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Is it better to spend money on bail or a criminal lawyer?
If you can afford bail and a lawyer, hire a private criminal defense lawyer, however if you are like the more than 70% of Americans that have less than $1,000 dollars in savings, this question is often the first question many people ask when they are dealing with unanticipated legal expenses. As a general proposition, if you can afford bail or a criminal lawyer, you should spend the money on bail... here is why:
THERE ARE NO GUARANTEED OUTCOMES IN CRIMINAL DEFENSE
One of the first things I tell prospective clients is to speak to as many criminal attorneys as it takes to feel comfortable with hiring one, but the biggest red flag of an attorney you should not hire is one who makes you believe a positive outcome to your case is guaranteed. Attorneys are ethically prohibited from entering into contingency fee agreements for criminal law matters - that means that an attorney cannot condition your payment on a particular outcome of your case.
BAILING OUT OF JAIL GIVES YOU LEVERAGE IN YOUR CASE
Plea bargains are often struck because a defendant is in jail and simply wants to go home - so the prosecutor offers a sweet deal: take the plea for something you didn't do, and you can go home... When a defendant bails out, prosecutors are less likely to file charges on a weak case, because they are now in a less advantageous position to offer an easy plea. Prosecutors are evaluated and promoted based on the cases they issue and clear, and if they have doubts about their ability to win a case, either by plea or at trial, then they will not file charges.
THE CONSTITUTION DEMANDS YOU HAVE COMPETENT AND ZEALOUS REPRESENTATION
The criminal process feels like a conveyor belt in a factory. You begin by being arraigned by a judge, prosecutor and and possibly a public defender that you will likely never see again. Throughout many court appearances it may seem like nothing is happening to resolve your case (though to the lawyers many small battles are being waged, and each side is posturing for the best possible position for trial). Luckily, we live in a country where you must have a competent and zealous attorney. If you cannot afford bail and a private attorney, you will have an attorney appointed for your case. If you are unhappy with your public defender, you can bring a motion to have a different public defender represent you. Regardless of whether you hire a lawyer, or go with a public defender, you still have the right to an attorney who will make sure all of your rights, and privileges are being protected.
A LAWYER CAN SAVE YOU MONEY ON BAIL
A little known secret in the criminal defense legal industry is that a lawyer can save you a lot of money on bail. The standard bail bonds contract is for 10% of the amount of bail. (i.e. if Bail is $100,000 - you pay a bondsman $10,000). Most bail bonds agents will offer a discount for a "lawyer referral." If a lawyer calls the bail bonds agent for you, they frequently get a referral discount for their clients. Instead of paying 10% on a bond, an attorney referral will pay 7% to 8% of the bond. (i.e. if Bail is $100,000, you pay $7,000-$8,000) That's a 20-30% discount!
SAN DIEGO PUBLIC DEFENDERS ARE AMONG THE BEST IN THE COUNTRY
The cliché of a public defender overworked and asleep at the wheel has been dead for years. Public defender careers are now highly coveted jobs with excellent benefits, that attract top-tier candidates. Few cities in the country are more attractive to top law school graduates than San Diego. While public defenders still have large active caseloads, you can expect generally great personalized service. I remember working a multi-defendant trial where one of the defendants was represented by a public defender. I still remember them sitting, waiting for the verdict, with their arms around each others shoulders as they had just been through an intense month-long battle of a trial. That defendant had a great lawyer - someone who truly cared about them and their case, and that defendant did not have to pay that lawyer a dime.
WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE A LAWYER IF YOU STILL HAVE MONEY AFTER PAYING BAIL
When you hire a private criminal defense attorney, you are paying for many advantages in the criminal process. First, you get a degree of personalized service that a public defender's office simply cannot match. You have the confidence that your lawyer is concerned about your case, and not their calendar or the 70 other cases on their plate. Hiring a lawyer is a signal to the district attorneys office that you are willing to fight your charges every step of the way, and with every resource you have. Many people know a lawyer, but they do not know a criminal lawyer. Criminal lawyers are familiar with the intricacies of the justice system in a way that other lawyers simply are not. In many cases a private criminal defense lawyer has worked with a judge or prosecutor before, and understands their preferences, tendencies and temperament for certain types of argument or strategy. Most importantly a private attorney cares about only one thing: winning your case. A happy client is the most important goal of any private San Diego criminal defense attorney.
Nicholas J. Moore
San Diego Criminal Lawyer
About the Author:
Nicholas J. Moore is a San Diego criminal defense and civil litigation attorney. He is a trial lawyer, voted "Best of the Bar 2016" by the San Diego Business Journal and selected to the "Rising Star" list of Super Lawyers Magazine in 2016 and 2017. Mr. Moore prides himself on offering prospective clients no-nonsense advice to help simplify a confusing legal system.