As a Miami criminal defense attorney I have the honor of representing clients accused of every type of crime from drug possession to 1st degree murder.  Before I become their attorney, these individuals are typically in my office for a consultation as a prospective client.  At those meetings I get to hear from my prospective clients about some of the wild past experiences with other Miami criminal defense attorneys and I want to share some of the “red flags” I warn my prospective clients about.

  1. There is a big difference between a criminal defense attorney informing a client of the maximum jail sentence they are facing and a criminal defense attorney using that maximum jail sentence allowable by law to scare a client into retaining said attorney.

You have common sense and you know the difference between someone educating you and someone just trying to scare you.  If the attorney mentions in your consult that you are looking at 30 years in jail they are probably just attempting to educate you.  If your Miami criminal defense attorney is telling you “look you’re facing 30 years in jail, you need me to handle this for you immediately”, your instincts should tell you this attorney is probably not the right fit for you.  When a client enters one of my offices I am well aware of why they are naturally uncomfortable in a criminal law office setting.  Frequently our clients have never been in trouble with the law and being in a criminal law office seems scary to them.  My staff is as friendly as someone could imagine, but regardless, prospective clients are uneasy.  For an attorney to prey on this vulnerable moment in a client’s life with threats of maximum jail sentences that the attorney knows will almost never actually materialize is highly unethical.  Enough said on this issue, next point.

  1. Don’t fall for a criminal defense attorney that promises you a 100% certain result.

It is against Florida Bar Rules and highly unethical for a criminal defense attorney in Miami to promise a certain result in your case. As a prosecutor I have handled thousands of cases and as a criminal defense attorney I’ve handled hundreds more.  If I were writing a book I would have enough experience to fill volumes.  And I can tell you that when it comes to criminal law there is no such thing as a guarantee.  I have seen simple small cases quickly become complicated and I have seen complex big cases crumble in a prosecutor’s hands.  Do not trust a criminal defense attorney that is making you promises of a certain result.  Even in situations where I am 99.999% confident I know what the outcome will be, I tell my clients “Because of my experience I can say with a high degree of certainty that (insert outcome) will likely be the outcome but there are zero guarantees.”  If your criminal defense attorney is insisting they can guarantee an outcome, ask them “don’t prosecutors get switched on and off cases? Can’t the State file new charges? Don’t probation program terms change from time to time?”  Very quickly you will see, there are “likely outcomes” but there aren’t guarantees.

  1. If you find yourself in the middle of a high pressure sales pitch from a Miami criminal defense attorney, walk away.

This is really a continuation of the discussion from the first point.  Stay away from the high pressure scary sales pitch. That’s not the attorney you want.  When a prospective client comes into my office my job is to educate and if possible, share any good news I can with them.  It is absolutely terrible that some attorneys choose to scare and intimidate their clients into signing a retainer.  If my clients want an extra day to think about the retainer, they get that day. If they want a weekend, they get the weekend.  And if the client comes back a month later, I honor the original price (assuming the situation or criminal charges are still the same.)

In conclusion, the best advice I can give you is to pay attention to your gut feeling.  You want the criminal defense attorney who makes you feel better about your situation once you leave their office, not the attorney who just terrified you beyond belief.  That does not mean hire the criminal defense attorney who fills you with false hope, but rather, hire the criminal defense attorney you feel is qualified and genuinely concerned about your situation.  Find the attorney that treats you like family.  If you have further questions, feel free to contact any of the Miami criminal defense attorneys at Pagan & Stroleny, P.L. (305)615-1285 or www.pslaw.org.