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How to Find a Good Criminal Defense Attorney

Pittsburgh Lawyer Franker Walker

Video Transcript:

Frank Walker:

What can it cost my lifestyle, my family, my freedom? How can it cost me if I don't get an attorney? Look at it that way.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you or a loved one find yourself in need of a criminal defense attorney, how do you make sure you pick the right one? That's what we're going to find out today as we ask the lawyer.

Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is Pittsburgh attorney, Frank Walker, who has quite a bit of experience in this area. Before we get to Frank, I want to remind you, if you want to ask questions about your specific situation, just go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do your asking right there. Frank, good to see you again. Thank you for making some time to help us out.

Frank Walker:

Thanks for having me. I appreciate being here.

Rob Rosenthal:

So I'm guessing when someone needs a criminal defense attorney, it's pretty important that they pick the right one. There's a lot at stake, and it can be a very emotional time, am I right?

Frank Walker:

It is, it is. And most people don't understand that the next five or ten years or even twenty years could depend on the decision that you make about a criminal defense attorney. It's very important that you do your due diligence, you research and you speak with the attorney you're trying to hire to make sure he or she has the requisite experience that you need for your case.

For example, a lot of people think all lawyers do the same thing, but that's not necessarily true. If a criminal defense lawyer only does DUI work, do you really want to hire them for your sexual assault or your homicide charge? You have to have experience in the area in which they're seeking to hire you for, and if you don't, as an attorney, you should say, “You know what, I'm not the guy or I'm not the girl. Let me pass you off to someone else who has that experience.” And that's okay. There's tons of people who are making bad decisions. You don't have to accept every case. So as a client, make sure you're researching your attorney and interviewing that attorney to make sure you get the right person and the right fit for your case.

Rob Rosenthal:

First of all, Frank, is there a way to know whether they even need a criminal defense attorney? Are there people that are like, “Well, maybe I can do this on my own. Maybe I don't need an attorney.” Help me sort that out a little bit.

Frank Walker:

Well, the surefire way to know you need an attorney is if the police are at your door. If the police are at your door or you find yourself in handcuffs face down on the concrete or in a police car, or you find yourself on the phone speaking with a detective. Anytime an officer or a detective asks you—keyword, “asks” you to come down. For example, come on down and clear up some things, we got their side of the story; now we need your side of the story. Don't go. Call a lawyer, because you need a lawyer. Or if they come to your house and say, “Hey, we got their side of the story. We need your side of the story just to clear up a couple of things, otherwise we're going to go to the DA.” Say, “That's okay. I need to call a lawyer.” Those are your responses anytime you're in contact with the police and they're asking you questions, you need a lawyer.

Rob Rosenthal:

And call that lawyer before you answer any questions?

Frank Walker:

Yes, absolutely. Preferably don't answer any questions at all, but definitely call a lawyer before you answer any questions at all. And don't get anxious. A lot of times, people get anxious because we live in this instant society where you want some food, you order it, and it's there in five or ten minutes if you're lucky. The problem is, people think, “Oh, I wonder what this is,” and their anxiety and curiosity gets them in trouble. So they want to call the police; they want to call the court; they want to call the detective and what this is about, and why they want to talk to you. That's a bad decision. Call or hire a lawyer; let them do your questioning and answering for you.

Rob Rosenthal:

And I think you and I talked about this once before, but it seems like sometimes when somebody says, “Well, I want to get my attorney on the line,” that makes you look like you're guilty. If you didn't do anything, why do you need an attorney?

Frank Walker:

That's the perfect response from a detective, because they're skilled to make you feel guilty for hiring a lawyer. Listen, if you are injured and you don't know what your injury is, you're going to say, “Oh, I'm going to call a doctor”, and you're not going to feel bad if someone tells you, “Well, why? You don’t need to call a doctor. You can do this for yourself; you can use the RICE method, you can ice it and use rest.” You’re not going to feel guilty, because this is your body; this is your freedom. You make sure you protect your freedom at all costs. Call a lawyer. Don't let anyone make you feel inferior about calling a lawyer.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's a really good point. Well, what about minors ,Frank? Or first time offenders? Do they still need an attorney?

Frank Walker:

Yes. For any interaction with police, whether you're a minor, whether you're an adult, whether you're a senior citizen, you need to contact a lawyer. Any contact with a police officer, or a detective, call a lawyer. Whether you're a minor, whether it's your first time offence, it doesn't matter. You may be eligible for some first-time programs to defer or dismiss the case if you complete some type of community service program specific to your area, but definitely call a lawyer because you don't know what to expect and you don't know where the pitfalls are.

Rob Rosenthal:

So it's important they pick the right attorney, but I'm guessing don't take too long to find the right attorney?

Frank Walker.

No. A lot of times people spend weeks, maybe even months trying to find the right attorney, meanwhile the detective is still coming back asking questions, answering questions for themselves because they didn't have anyone to filter out their responses. Make sure you get an attorney immediately. Anytime you have any contact with police, contact a lawyer.

Rob Rosenthal:

What about the availability of the lawyer? It occurs to me that arrests and criminal activity don't always happen Monday through Friday, nine to five.

Frank Walker:

No, they don't. For example, it's the weekend coming up; most people are looking forward to Friday because they can rest. I can't, because the people are calling on the weekends, because the police don't stop; police are working through the weekend. They're investigating. They’re arresting. People are going out on the weekends, they're getting DUIs, underage drinking, public intoxication, they're getting charged with crimes seven days a week, 24 hours a day, so you need to make yourself available as a criminal defense attorney. As a client when you're looking for a criminal defense attorney, you need to lay it all out on the line, asking “What's your availability? How will I contact you? Will I only deal with you or your associate? When can I contact you? What mediums can I use? Can I text you? Email, phone call, face-to-face, FaceTime, Google Meet? How can I contact you and speak with you when I'm in need or I have a question to get answered?”

Rob Rosenthal:

What other pieces of advice do you have for people who are trying to choose the right criminal defense attorney? What else should they know?

Frank Walker:

I think you have to put it in perspective and ask the right questions, to be honest with your situation. If you have a case where you're looking at—let's use an example, for price—price is sometimes prohibitive, because if they go, “This person is not charging as much as this person…” Let's use an example, you work at a management job; it’s your first job out of college and making $50,000 a year; it’s a good, great job.

So now you get charged with an offense where the maximum penalty could be a minimum mandatory of five years in prison, so you're losing a couple hundred thousand dollars if you get convicted of that crime. So what is the cost you're willing to pay to protect your reputation, your freedom, and that job that you will not be able to go to if you get convicted? Don’t think on the matter of what it costs right now, think on the matter of what it costs later on? And what can it cost my lifestyle, my family, my freedom? How can it cost me if I don't get an attorney? Look at it that way.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of great information as always. I always enjoy our talks, Frank. Thank you for helping us and answering our questions.

Frank Walker:

No problem. Thanks for having me.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. Remember, if you want to ask information and ask questions about your own specific situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and it'll walk you right through the easy process. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

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