How We Set Our Fees
Our fees are based on a number of factors, primarily the severity of the offense(s) charged, the number of different charges, the location of the Court and whether the case is complicated by any other unrelated cases that may be pending such as probation violations. These are the main factors, but other things may come into play including whether the client is in custody and likely to be freed from jail pending the case. Having a client out of custody makes it much easier and less time consuming.
Criminal cases are nearly always billed on a flat fee to carry you through a particular phase of the case. In our office, we charge Misdemeanor cases a flat fee which covers everything through and including the trial stage.
Felony cases are billed differently because they are handled differently procedurally. In a felony case, there is first an arraignment, which is simply appearing in court and pleading not guilty. Bail may also be addressed at this time if the client is in custody. Afterward, the court will set a Preliminary Hearing date sometime out in the future. This is the critical stage we use for billing felonies.
The Preliminary Hearing, or Prelim, is held in the Justice Court before a Justice of the Peace. The function of this hearing is not to determine guilt or innocence, but rather as a sort of filter. Here the judge determines whether there is “probable cause” that a crime was committed and if so whether there is probable cause to believe the person charged is the person who committed the crime. It is a very low standard of proof, nothing like the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of a criminal trial. Though the State’s burden at this stage is very low, it is nonetheless a critical stage in the proceedings from the viewpoint of the defense. Here, the defense is able to cross-examine the State’s witnesses and although uncommon, the defense can call witnesses as well. If the Court believes probable cause exists, the case will be “bound over” or transferred to the District Court for a later trial.
We charge felony cases a flat fee which covers all proceedings through and including the preliminary hearing. The fact is most cases are resolved through negotiation at this stage. This is because we should be in possession of all of the material facts and evidence at this point and it is easy to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case, which makes it conducive to settlement. If the case cannot be resolved and is set for trial, a different and separate fee will be discussed at that time, based on the exact charges that survive the Prelim and are actually headed for trial. There is no use in quoting or charging a fee for trial in a felony case until after the Prelim is over.
“A lawyers’ time and advice is his stock and trade” – Abraham Lincoln
We take these words to heart. We can appreciate the time we need to spend on a case when it walks in the door. We have seen some ‘discount’ lawyers advertise that they are so experienced that they can charge less money, because they are going to spend less time on your case- because they can do it quicker than anyone else. This is complete nonsense. If someone tells you they want to spend less time thinking about your case, run –don’t walk away. If you are facing prison or a charge that will lose you your job or future opportunities, you want someone who is going to spend as much time as they need to explore every nook and cranny to figure a way out of the problem. Frankly, when I first saw that advertisement I thought “they must not know what they are looking for!” Doing it right takes time, the extra work almost always pays greater dividends. Not every case is alike and you must make every effort to get the best result. Do not think that just because your case is a “simple misdemeanor” or you think “it’s open and shut” that every similar case is going to end the same way no matter what lawyer you get. This is not so. See our Recent Case Results to understand for yourself what a difference time and effort makes. We base our fees on how much time we think we will need to do the case right –nothing more, nothing less. We are neither the cheapest nor the most expensive firm in town. If you call and speak with me, I will quote you a fee over the phone after getting some basic information from you and the court to verify the charges and custody status. If you prefer, we can meet in my office – consultation is free. If your loved one is in custody, after I am retained, I will meet him at the jail until we can get him released.
John Henry Wright