NYC Criminal Defense Attorney Costs: Explained by Andrew M. Stengel, Former Prosecutor
What is the cost of hiring a criminal defense attorney in New York? This is an inevitably question that all criminal defense lawyers are asked by potential clients.
It should go without saying that all criminal defense attorneys are not created equal. Some criminal defense attorneys in New York charge more than others—for good reason. Some criminal defense attorneys charge less than others—for terrible reasons.
When looking to retain an attorney if charged with a crime or the subject of an investigation, should a person hire the cheapest attorney? The attorney who offers a price that seems like their work is on sale when compared to another fee you’ve been quoted by a different attorney? I like to answer these questions with another question: Would you order sushi in a restaurant that was advertised as “On Sale?”
There are two primary factors that govern that cost to defend criminal charges in New York City: (1) the nature of the charges; and (2) the knowledge and experience of the attorney.
First, every criminal case is different. The criminal charges vary. The severity of the allegations varies. The evidence varies. So, different charges and different allegations may cause the cost of a criminal defense case in New York to fluctuate. Generally speaking, the more severe the allegation and/or charges, keeping in mind that a defendant has the presumption of innocence and may in fact be completely innocent or have a valid defense, the more expensive a case will cost to defend.
In some cases, when people charged with crimes in New York consult with me, the first question that is asked is: How much? He or she will tell me that they are accused of X or Y crime and then ask: how much does would their criminal defense case cost? If an attorney quotes a fee without knowing anything about the case, then you should end the call. Those attorneys tend to churn cases without taking the time to do the work necessary to defend a case zealously, which is what every defendant deserves.
The Cost of Hiring an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in NYC
Second, the experience of a defense attorney matters. What I call the lowest-price-television rule does not apply to hiring a criminal defense lawyer. Think of the high definition TV that you last bought. It didn’t matter if that TV was purchased on Amazon or at Best Buy. The place that offered the lowest price was sufficient because you got the same model TV no matter where it was purchased. Quite obviously, defense attorneys are not like TVs. You get what you pay for. So, should a person hire a criminal defense lawyer who quotes them the cheapest retainer? Probably not, unless you want a really crappy TV. Logically, a good defense attorney is going to cost more.
As far as experience is concerned, I am partial to criminal defense attorneys who are former prosecutors. I think the ideal experience is a criminal defense attorney who once sat on the other side of the table. Trial experience also matters. A defense lawyer in New York who has never had a criminal trial and faced a jury will be far less expensive to hire than a person who has real trial experience. In addition, the best type of criminal trial experience is somebody who has tried cases as both a prosecutor and as a defense attorney.
When facing criminal charges that could lead to a permanent criminal record and jail, it is wise to seek out the best defense. I say that the best defense is an excellent defense attorney. A better defense attorney may cost more, but it will have a direct outcome on your life.