Most people I deal with have never talked to an attorney before. Or they’ve never talked to a defense lawyer about a criminal matter. Now they’re facing serious accusations – for instance, accusations that they’ve committed a sexual offense of some sort – or they’re facing a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charge.
And naturally they don’t really know how the conversation will go. First, I try to set clients at ease. A criminal accusation is not the end of the world – even a serious accusation is something that people can and do face and live through the experience. Talking to a criminal defense lawyer, whether in Raleigh, Apex, or Cary, is never something want to do.
Next, I explain the most severe consequences the client could face if they are convicted of the crime. I do this not to scare them. But I do this so that they know what is the worse case scenario. In part this is because worse case scenarios sometimes do occur. But mostly this is to prepare them.
I will also generally ask about the circumstances that led to the arrest or accusation. I lead people through a series of questions designed to quickly, but carefully, assess the strengths or weaknesses of their position.
For instance, if the accusation involves a sexual offense, I’ll want to know who the accuser is, the circumstances surrounding the accusation, whether the accuser has made accusations about other people in the past. In addition, I’ll want to know who else may have been around at the time the events allegedly took place.
If the accusation involves a DWI, I’ll want to know who else was in the car, what reason the police gave for stopping the car, how much, if anything, the client had to drink, how the client was driving at the time of the incident.
I’ll also want to know whether the client has a past criminal or traffic record. I don’t want the client to have to “relive” those past experience, or try to shame them. But a past criminal record or traffic record may expose the client to a greater liability. North Carolina has a structured sentencing grid that relies not only on the seriousness of the current offense, but determines sentencing based on the defendant’s “prior record level.”
I’ll also ask about work or family history. I do this not to pry, but to find out what is important to the client. If the client has been accused of a marijuana possession charge, and works at a place where such a conviction would not be tolerated, I need to know that in order to know how a conviction might affect the client’s livelihood.
My goal in all of this is to get as complete a picture as possible in a 45 minute conversation so that I can give some appropriate advice.
Finally, I will always clearly state the fees that I charge at the end of the conversation. This gives the potential client enough information about what they will have to pay if the choose to hire me, and also sets expectations.
My first conversation is free, and I’m happy to give good advice during that conversation. If you’d like to talk to me about a pending charge or accusation – whether it’s a DWI, a serious drug charge, a sex offense accusation or a violent felony – give me a call at (919) 352-9411 weekdays, evenings, or weekends.