What You Need to Know About Hiring an Attorney for Criminal Defense


Advice on Finding a Defense Attorney

There was once a well-known commercial for financial planning that featured an average-looking guy in his PJs at the breakfast table with a butter knife beside his chest, on the phone with someone who explained how to make the incision. A split-screen moment revealed the other party on the phone was a doctor or surgeon. We return to our breakfast scene when the bewildered man asks, “Shouldn’t you be doing this?” Noting the obvious that we rely on experts to manage serious situations, we did so. Those who are qualified to do surgery should do so. The same is true when your freedom is at stake. A criminal defense attorney is essential if your or a loved one’s safety or space is jeopardized.

When faced with the prospect of languishing in the bowels of jail, some people have the gall to try to handle the situation on their own or to seek the assistance of a buddy who has a friend who practices some form of law but knows the prosecutor. Others realize they’re in over their heads and need outside assistance, but they find it like they’re looking for a discount on paper towels at Walmart. This is another incorrect method. Please don’t “bargain shop” when choosing a surgeon, a parachutist, or someone to preserve your freedom. You will regret it. Spending a little more money now is preferable to save your life later on. It’s just money, and if you’re accessible and able to work, you can quickly compensate for what you spent on your defense. However, if you go to jail, even after serving a long sentence, the few pennies you earn each day won’t add up to much.

I’m well aware that most law-abiding folks lack a “speed dial” criminal defense attorney. Not all attorneys are the same. Humans vary significantly in terms of body type. However, it is commonly believed that if you study hard enough and pass the bar exam, you will be equipped with an innate understanding of the law and able to handle any case. This is flat-out, not true. If your head hurts and your nose is bleeding, would you make an appointment with your dentist? Podiatrist? Most likely not. It’s more likely that you’d seek the help of an internal medicine specialist or neurosurgeon instead. The same holds for your legal counsel.

I practice criminal defense law. I handled over a hundred cases as a prosecutor in New Orleans, from simple narcotics possession to capital murder. As a defense attorney, I’ve had the honor of working on some of the most high-profile and intricate cases in state and federal courts in our region. Wills are not something I do. Don’t bother me with bankruptcy calls. I have no idea how to handle such situations, and using your example as a learning tool would be unfair to both of us.

Surprisingly, some legal professionals are so eager for work that they dabble in every area of law. Be skeptical of any lawyer who advertises their services by saying they specialize in “no-fault divorces,” “slip and fall cases,” or “death penalty cases.” I have devoted countless hours, and years, to perfecting my technique. And so should the person who is trying to save your life. That old saying about being a “jack of all trades and master of none” comes to mind. Hiring an attorney who specializes in the field of law, you require is something you owe yourself. As far as I can tell, those attorneys who seem to take on any case possible must be desperate to make ends meet. Avoiding these people is in your best interest.

Understand that lawyers are essentially salespeople. Like a trip through a used car lot, you need to be on alert and not get taken in by catchy slogans and over-the-top claims from the salespeople. I recommend using the following questions to weed out the fake trial lawyers from the real ones:

How many cases have you taken to trial, and do you use juries? Actual attorneys take matters to trial. False attorneys advertise themselves as trial lawyers.

2. In what ways have you dealt with situations similar to this before? Keep in mind that not every lawyer is the same. Do you want someone specializing in traffic court to hear your homicide case? The loss of my freedom would be a terrible “learning curve” for anyone!

Thirdly, how much of your business is focused on criminal defense? General practitioners have my skepticism. Defense of the accused is a field in which I excel. Property disputes, wills, and regulatory law’s intricacies are beyond my ken. You wouldn’t want me to represent you in a servitude rights case any more than you’d wish the town’s top divorce attorney to decide who sits on the jury in your armed robbery trial. Let’s be honest: a single lawyer can’t become an expert in every subspecialty of the law. The adage “jack of all trades, master of none” is accurate.

4. How will you communicate with the attorneys? Some people will take the money and run. If a client asks for my cell phone number, I have no qualms about giving it to them. A paralegal is assigned to each case file so simple inquiries can be fielded. Even if the client is incarcerated, we will send them copies of all court documents and meet with them to go through them. This raises another issue: we frequently visit inmates and accept and collect phone calls. You should probably look elsewhere if your prospective attorney is hard to contact. However, at the very least, you should be aware of the extent of your access in exchange for payment.

5. Make it easy to understand your objectives. Predictable outcomes are crucial. You must tell your lawyer what you want to happen to get somewhere. It would be disastrous if you liked the charges dropped, but your counsel was thinking, “Quick guilty plea.” Put things in plain view. In addition, the attorney should tell you if your objective is reasonable. Keep in mind that there are dishonest people who would say anything to take your money. Get everything put in writing if they make any bold assertions. There will be an immediate U-turn, I can assure you. Please understand that no lawyer can promise a particular result.

Do not waste any further time with a potential lawyer who engages in any of the following:

First, no attorney can promise a specific result. Countless families have retained our firm after hiring an attorney who promised them, “Pay me x, and Mr. Client will get out of jail.” If only it were that easy. In this case, you should push for a written guarantee of a complete return if the promised outcome does not materialize.

Second, you should be skeptical if your attorney cannot provide you with a receipt or a letter detailing the scope of your engagement and the associated costs. Do not act startled when requests for more money keep flowing, and you are left with the impression that the case is not going as planned if you do not commit scope and costs. Be wary of any attorney who refuses to issue a payment receipt that appropriately reflects your owed amount. Any lawyer who refuses is likely taking money “off the books.” Every cent of fee income is documented and distributed to our clients. As a company, we reject the concept of “high-interest loans from the IRS.”

The third rule is that no lawyer should ask for your business directly. Promotion is allowed but is closely monitored and regulated. No lawyer will ever come to your house or phone you to say, “I heard you were arrested, and I can help.” Shut the door or put down the phone if this happens to you. The lawyer’s license will be revoked for such behavior. Additionally, consider what sort of representation you might expect from a lawyer willing to use unethical practices to win your business.

A solid criminal law practice clouts you because you’ll know the prosecutors and judges. Every one of them is common knowledge to us. Nothing exceptional there. “I know the Judge” or “The prosecutor and I are friends” should not be taken at face value. No judge or prosecutor would break the law to assist you in winning your case. Bribery and public corruption are federal crimes. Thus, any suggestion to the contrary is illegal. Knowing the prosecutor and judge might give you an idea of how they handle comparable cases and decide on critical legal problems. Just that. Therefore, you shouldn’t believe lawyers who claim to be close friends with the judge on the golf course.

If you are under investigation for a crime, you should get the best criminal defense counsel you can afford immediately. Don’t believe “pie in the sky” promises, and make sure your expectations are clear. The majority of people should be able to secure competent legal counsel affordably. After narrowing down your list of potential lawyers, you should hire one you feel most at ease with. After all, you have no choice but to follow this person’s guidance. It’s crucial to your survival.

Andre Belanger is a highly regarded criminal defense lawyer for one of Baton Rouge’s top 25 law firms. He attended Loyola University and served the residents of Baton Rouge and the surrounding area.

Mr. Belanger has handled almost 200 trials as a prosecutor or defense attorney during his 15 years in practice.

Mr. Belanger is licensed to practice law in all federal courts in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as before the Supreme Court of the United States and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States.

Mr. Belanger, who is deeply invested in the fair administration of justice, is currently honing his trial abilities in the criminal courtroom in preparation for opening his own personal injury trial business. Few personal injury “trial attorneys” have significant jury trial experience. Thus, this is a huge plus for his clients. In addition to being named one of Louisiana’s Super Lawyers, Mr. Balenger has been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers Association.

Andre’s life outside the legal firm centers on his family: his wife, Ashley, and their two wonderful sons, Luc and Matthieu. He attributes his achievement to the encouragement he has received from them. They volunteer with the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Baton Rouge when they aren’t enjoying the great outdoors.

More information about him and his company may be found at.

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