The safest choice is to always hire an attorney if charged with a criminal offense-- no matter how minor-- to seek legal advice at the very least. You may decide not to hire an attorney to represent you in court, but a consultation is usually free of charge and can give you some insight on the charges you are facing. Most lawyers will inform you about the potential defense option, plea bargains or programs potentially available and actions to take if convicted. Please keep in mind that this consultation may not seem like a sales pitch, but ultimately it is, so don't make a hasty decision.
Criminal lawyers (attorneys) represent defendants charged criminally by the State of Connecticut, as opposed to civil issues like divorces and lawsuits. The best attorneys specialize in either criminal or civil law. However, that doesn't mean that they cannot do both; many do, and do it well. Do some research and see what type of work they really do and their results. You can do this by first looking up their juris number at https://www.jud.ct.gov/attorneyfirminquiry/AttorneyFirmInquiry.aspx, and second, looking up their criminal case list here: http://www.jud2.ct.gov/crdockets/attyFirmJurisSearch.aspx.
A criminal defense attorney will:
If you are being charged by the State of Connecticut, you will want an attorney that specializes in our state law. You may even want an attorney that specializes in the type of crime you are being charged with. Some attorneys have much more trial experience than others, which is also something to take into consideration; many will lack the experience if your case goes to trial.
Technically, a public defender and a private attorney have the same capabilities. Public defenders are for those who cannot afford an attorney, but are often appointed for arraignment purposes only if you do not have private counsel arranged for already. To see if you qualify for a public defender, have a look at the Income Eligibility Guideline here: http://www.ct.gov/ocpd/cwp/view.asp?a=4089&q=593454#Felony. Unfortunately, while many of the public defenders are excellent attorneys they often have limited resources and an overload of clients to represent.
An attorney's ability to communicate is extremely important, for that is how they will argue your case. A strong track record is certainly a plus, especially in the same type of crime you have been charged with.
More serious crimes and/or an extensive criminal history require the most experienced attorney you can find. You can find attorneys online, but that just shows that they are good at marketing. Referrals along with doing your own homework is the best method of finding an attorney. A good referral may come from your bondsman, since they see the outcome of an attorney's work every day; attorneys can also refer other attorneys who may specialize in the crime(s) you're being charged with. The bar website is a good source of information: https://members.ctbar.org/search/custom.asp?id=2968
Don't be fooled by generic statements of success, flashy offices, or clever marketing schemes. Any promise of results before seeing the totality of the evidence is also a red flag. Remember, attorneys are SELLING their services.
Most of the time, the complecity of the case is what determines an attorney's cost. An up front payment called a retainer is usually requested by the attorney, and they will bill for additional costs, hours, and expenses as the case progresses. This can add up very fast.
Lawyers call this a consultation. We recommend a face-to-face meeting because it gives you a better idea of their skill, communication, organization, and office; this will allow you to gauge whether or not you feel comfortable with your future in their hands. Schedule a few interviews. Remember, you are being sold on a service, so ask the hard questions.
Have all the available pertinent information regarding your case with you. This will ensure an accurate assessment of your criminal matter and save time.
The staff is a crucial part of the attorney's capabilities. A small staff or no staff may mean they will have a hard time doing all the work required in a complicated case. Questions to ask include:
Are they familiar with the specific type of case you have? If so, what tactics will they use and why? How will they communicate with you-- email, text, letter? What additional experts will they expect to need-- bondsmen, expert witnesses, a private investigator? Will they suggest rehab?