If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a crime in Houston, having an experienced criminal defense lawyer represent you is essential. The consequences of a conviction can affect your life profoundly. A knowledgeable criminal attorney has the skills and experience to protect your rights, bargain charges where possible, and build the strongest case for the best outcome. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about finding the right criminal lawyers in Houston for your situation.
Understanding Your Criminal Defense Options
There are three main ways a criminal case generally proceeds, depending on the circumstances:
The defense attorney negotiates with prosecutors to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for avoiding more serious offenses. This helps limit penalties and jail time.
The case goes before a judge and/or jury who determine guilt or innocence based on evidence and testimony. Criminal defense lawyers handle expert witnesses, presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses and delivering persuasive legal arguments. About 90% of state and federal criminal cases resolve through plea bargains versus trial.
For insufficient evidence, technical errors or other issues, the presiding judge may dismiss the charges. But you still need an attorney to identify grounds for dismissal and file proper motions. About 25% of state felony cases get dismissed.
An experienced local criminal lawyer knows the system, prosecutors, and judges and can advise which approach gives you the best odds based on the specifics of your charges and background.
Conduct Thorough Research to Find Top Candidates
Casting a wide net and utilizing multiple resources helps identify potential attorneys to interview:
- Ask people you trust for referrals to criminal defense lawyers that have represented them or someone they know.
- Search online legal directories like Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and Lawyers.com looking for top-rated Houston area criminal attorneys.
- Look up profiles of respected Houston criminal defense firms of all sizes to review their case experience, trial record, attorney bios, and overall reputation.
- Check listings with the Texas Bar Association and Houston Bar Association for certified criminal lawyers. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization offers a criminal specialty certification attorneys can earn through extensive experience and exam testing.
- Read Google and Facebook reviews but also take negative reviews with a grain of salt, even for highly respected attorneys. Those with more reviews generally indicate an experienced lawyer.
- Compile a list of 3-5 lawyers who look promising to interview.
Understand and Evaluate Credentials
When researching potential lawyers, you want to look closely at their credentials:
- How many years have they been practicing criminal defense law? Look for 10+ years handling criminal cases in Houston.
- Do they specialize in criminal defense or also handle many other types of cases? Find someone dedicated specifically to criminal litigation.
- Do they have experience defending cases similar to yours whether homicide, sex crimes, assault, drugs, theft, white collar crime, etc? Identify lawyers familiar with your charges.
- What is their track record of case results based on online research? A high percentage of dismissed cases and favorable verdicts is ideal.
- Where did they graduate law school and what class rank? Top tier law schools indicate strong legal foundations.
- Do they have certifications like Board Certified in Criminal Law through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization or Criminal Trial Advocacy designation from the National Board of Trial Advocacy? These demonstrate substantial criminal trial experience.
The right credentials make for a more confident legal defense.
Interview Lawyers in Person
Narrow down the list and schedule consultations to meet individually with remaining candidates:
- Explain your criminal charges and get their case evaluation and strategy suggestions.
- Get a feel for their communication style and personality to determine if you can work together cooperatively. There must be mutual trust and understanding.
- Ask questions about their previous experience with cases similar to yours and performance record.
- Discuss fees and payment options. Avoid uncertainty. Flat fee arrangements are common.
- Evaluate their responsiveness to your questions and concerns. Do they listen closely?
- Consider office location and ability to meet face-to-face as needed.
Meeting in person brings the competency of a lawyer to defend your specific case into better focus.
Choosing the Best Attorney for Your Situation
With research and consultations complete, select the criminal lawyer that is the best match based on:
Find someone with extensive background defending your precise charges like assault, DUI, domestic violence, drug possession, etc. Their past strategic approach and case successes should align closely with yours.
Look for a lawyer with access to critical support professionals like skilled investigators, forensic specialists, researchers, and legal staff to build a robust defense. Solo practitioners often lack this.
Courtroom and Negotiation Skills
Choose an attorney with proven litigation skills, not someone who pleads out most cases. You want an aggressive trial lawyer with good relationships and negotiation tactics.
Communication Style and Compatibility
There must be clear communication and trust between you and your lawyer. You should feel confident they have the skills and drive to achieve the best outcome.
Avoid uncertainty – discuss fees upfront so there are no surprises later. Understand typical flat fees, payment plans, and when retainers are required.
Taking time to find the right criminal defense lawyer with specific experience in cases like yours provides the greatest advantage in negotiations and the courtroom. Fighting aggressively at every stage on your behalf is how an excellent Houston criminal attorney helps protect your future.
Being arrested for DUI, drug possession, theft, aggravated assault Texas or any crime is a serious matter with potentially life-changing consequences. To maximize your chances of charges being reduced or dismissed, punishment minimized, or acquittal following a trial, it is critical to:
- Research extensively to identify top-rated Houston criminal defense attorneys. Look for extensive positive reviews, credentials, experience with your specific charges, and a proven record of positive case results.
- Schedule consultations and thoroughly vet lawyers before making a decision. Attorney rapport, communication style, and responsiveness also factor in.
- Understand all legal fees and payment terms upfront so there are no surprises later.
- Trust your gut in choosing the lawyer that seems most capable of delivering the strongest defense and optimal outcome for you.
With an experienced criminal lawyer guiding you through each phase, you have an advocate fighting for your rights and future every step of the way.