Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer During a Free Consultation in West Chester

If you are facing criminal charges in West Chester, you need the right lawyer to handle your case.

Many criminal defense lawyers offer free consultations. That gives you a chance to ask questions—with no obligation—to see if the attorney is a good fit for you.

Here are a few questions to ask a criminal defense lawyer during a free consultation in West Chester.

#1 How Does Attorney-Client Confidentiality Work?

The first of the five questions to ask a criminal defense lawyer during a free consultation in West Chester is: How does attorney-client confidentiality work? It is very important that you feel comfortable discussing every aspect of your case with your lawyer.

The best way for you to feel confident and comfortable discussing all aspects of your case is for you to know that what you say to your lawyer is protected. To understand how this works, ask about confidentiality and privilege.

Your attorney will be happy to explain how your conversations and communications are protected, and what limitations there are. 

Typically, attorney-client confidentiality only applies to communications related to legal representation. This is an ethical rule that prevents lawyers from telling anyone about what you discuss. 

Attorney-client privilege, on the other hand, is a rule of evidence that keeps the communication between you and your lawyer from being disclosed during court proceedings. This prevents your lawyer from being forced to testify against you in court.

t also protects communication between you and your lawyer from being disclosed during the course of discovery.

Working together, confidentiality protects your privacy in the community at large, while privilege protects you in legal proceedings. Good lawyers take confidentiality very seriously and know how to fight to protect your privilege.

There are important limitations to understand about attorney-client privilege that they can discuss with you. Primarily, if you threaten to harm yourself or others, or try to use the lawyer to commit another crime, confidentiality will be broken. 

Your attorney needs to know everything about your case. They won’t judge you – they need to know all the facts in order to properly evaluate your case and strategize.

#2 What Crimes Can I Be Charged With and What Are The Penalties?

The second question to ask a criminal defense lawyer during a free consultation in Chester County is: what crimes can I be charged with and what are the penalties? Whether you have already been charged or not, it is important to go over every detail of your case and ask what criminal charges are possible. 

Prosecutors may charge you with one thing, only to add additional charges later from the same incident. You need to understand all the possible charges that could come up in your case. If you aren’t charged yet your lawyer will be able to estimate what you are likely to be charged with based on what happened.

It is very important that you go into your case with a full understanding of the minimum and maximum penalties you are facing.

Your lawyer may also be able to estimate the likely outcome if you are convicted based on your criminal record and the allegations. When it comes to criminal cases, ignorance is not bliss – you need to know what you are facing to make informed decisions. 

#3 What Possible Defenses Do I Have?

At the free consultation, not enough information is available yet to formulate a complete defense theory.

Your lawyer will probably want to dispatch their own investigator to figure out what happened and what favorable evidence is out there. Your lawyer will also want to serve a discovery demand on the prosecutor to get all the evidence they have on you. 

However, at the first meeting, your lawyer should be able to give you a general idea of what defenses might apply to your case.

Every case is unique, but an experienced West Chester criminal defense attorney can typically spot a few different defenses that might be available to you based on your initial meeting.

Some common defense strategies may include:

  • Filing motions to suppress evidence
  • Arguing police violated your Fifth Amendment Miranda Rights
  • Arguing police violated your Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • Finding witnesses and evidence that show you have been wrongly accused
  • Presenting an affirmative defense such as self-defense

At the free consultation, you should come away with a general sense of which defenses your lawyer thinks may apply to your situation. Your attorney’s initial impression is likely to change as more evidence comes to light, and as new defenses are uncovered and others are eliminated. 

The defense strategy you end up using will depend in part on your goals for the case. Your lawyer will need to carefully discuss case strategy, goals, and different defenses in more detail with you at additional meetings to make sure everyone stays on the same page. 

#4 What Is Your Fee?

Once you have discussed your case and understand the possible penalties and defenses, you need to make sure you know how much the lawyer charges for their services.

This is crucial to a good relationship with your lawyer. If you are not happy with the rate, you should know upfront so you can go elsewhere. 

You should also ask what the cost will be if the lawyer hires an investigator or retains experts to work on your case. These services can be essential pieces of a defense, but they tend to cost more. Make sure you know what the cost is going to be so you can make the necessary arrangements. 

#5 What Should I Do Next?

The final question to ask a criminal defense lawyer during a free consultation in West Chester is: what should I do next?  This is a key question because failing to ask it can lead to additional criminal charges and more legal headaches. 

Your lawyer can advise you on the next steps, including:

  • Invoking your right to remain silent
  • Not talking with anyone else about your case
  • Complying with bond conditions
  • Appearing for your next court date
  • Avoiding allegations of witness tampering
  • Avoiding evidence tampering allegations
  • Key actions the lawyer will begin taking

The whole reason you are hiring a Chester County criminal defense attorney is that you don’t know what to do next.

Make sure you leave your first meeting feeling confident that you understand exactly what the next steps are, and what you need to be focusing on. 

If you’ve been charged with a crime in Chester County, contact a reputable lawyer near you for a free consultation.