How to find a Criminal Defense lawyer: Don’t hire a Civil lawyer Who is Pretending to be a Criminal Defense Lawyer ( part 2)

A real criminal defense lawyer is a devoted lawyer who makes his living by defending people who are under investigation or charged with a crime.

It’s important when hiring a criminal defense lawyer to
hire a real “criminal defense lawyer”.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that unfortunately there are a lot of lawyers getting hired on criminal cases who are not real criminal defense lawyers. There are a lot of civil lawyers out there who are , masquerading as criminal defense lawyers.
There are a lot of “Pretend Criminal Defense Lawyers” out there.

A person accused of a crime does not want someone representing them, who is pretending to be a criminal defense lawyer. Having a civil lawyer defend you on your criminal case is akin to having your podiatrist do your triple bypass heart surgery. It’s just not a good idea. In fact, it’s a very bad idea.

Why are civil lawyers pretending to be criminal defense lawyers?

Tort reform made it much more difficult for civil lawyers to make a living. It’s now much harder to sue and collect on accidents and on medical malpractice cases. A lot of civil lawyers have found themselves
Out of work. To make up for their lost income from civil cases, a large number of purely civil lawyers have started taking criminal cases.

To be clear, These are NOT dedicated criminal defense lawyers who also do some civil law. I am referring to purely civil lawyers who who are just recently started taking criminal cases with no qualifications to do so.

In order to get hired on criminal cases, these civil lawyers are pretending to be criminal defense lawyers. For those of us who are criminal defense lawyers, the pretend criminal defense lawyers, are easy to spot.

Having been a criminal defense lawyer for 31 years, I know if not by name, at least by sight, my fellow criminal defense lawyers. We all know each other.

So when I see a 50 year old civil lawyer I have never seen before, bumping into walls at the criminal courthouse, it’s pretty easy to knock him off as a pretend criminal defense lawyer.

The phonies stand out by their actions and their words. I will give an example.

I was in county court not long ago and I heard an obvious pretend criminal defense lawyer talking to an assistant DA. The pretend criminal defense lawyer gave himself away as soon as he opened his mouth.

The pretend criminal defense lawyer asked the county court DA, “Can I get a deferred adjudication for my clients DUI?”

There are two things that gave the pretend criminal defense lawyer away.
First, he referred to the offense as a “DUI”. In some states that is what it’s called; Not in Texas. In Texas, the county court offense is Driving While Intoxicated or DWI. By asking about his client’s “DUI”, this pretend criminal defense lawyer gave himself away. He didn’t even know what his client was charged with. Second, the pretend criminal defense lawyer asked for deferred adjudication on the DUI. I wanted to respond that

” You can get deferred adjudication for your client’s DWI, but you will need a time machine. You will have to go back to the 1980s because that’s the last time you could get a deferred adjudication for a DWI in Texas.”

With one question the pretend criminal defense lawyer educated the Assistant DA that he was a pretender and thus easy pickings.

The dangers in hiring a pretend criminal defense lawyer are surely self- evident. However, it’s worth mentioning at least a few of the downsides to the accused.

Criminal law is complex. There are many different criminal offenses and providing effective representation requires dedication, hard-work, skill, experience, knowledge of the law, the courts and the prosecutors. Pretending doesn’t cut it.

Additionally, a criminal case is an adversarial matter. The Assistant DAs are just as able as the real criminal defense lawyers to identify pretend criminal defense lawyers. If an Assistant DA knows he is dealing with a pretend criminal defense lawyer, there is an increased risk to the accused. An unscrupulous ADA is far more likely to try and screw the
pretend criminal defense lawyer. Why? Because he can. And who suffers the consequence? Not the pretend criminal defense lawyer. The accused suffers the consequence of hiring the
pretend criminal defense lawyer.

So, how does one know if they are talking with a real criminal defense lawyer or a pretend criminal defense lawyer? It’s not that hard to distinguish between the two.

Here are some places to look:

Look at the lawyers website and see how he promotes himself. If his website is all about mediation, bankruptcy, corporations, etc- he may not be a real criminal defense lawyer.

Look the lawyer up with the State Bar of Texas. Look under areas of practice. If the lawyer lists civil law and doesn’t mention criminal defense to the State Bar, he likely isn’t a real criminal defense lawyer.

Ask the lawyer questions:

How long has he been a criminal defense lawyer?

If he is 60 years old and he says he’s only been a criminal defense lawyer for just a few years, you may want to consider that.

What kind of trial experience does he have?

Unfortunately, there are civil lawyers taking criminal cases they are not competent to handle. We all know it’s happening.

A person charged with a real criminal offense needs a real criminal defense lawyer, not a pretender.

About Robert Fickman

Robert Fickman is a criminal defense attorney with 33 years experience in defending the citizen accused in both state and federal court. He is a past president of HCCLA and remains active in its mission.

    3 comments on “How to find a Criminal Defense lawyer: Don’t hire a Civil lawyer Who is Pretending to be a Criminal Defense Lawyer ( part 2)

    1. Cory Roth Law Office

      September 2, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      You have some good points. What is your opinion about former prosecutors as criminal defense lawyers? Where do they fall on the spectrum of “true believers to part-timers and recessionist.”

      Reply
      • Robert Fickman

        November 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm

        Some of our very best criminal defense lawyers were prosecutors. I care more about where a lawyer is at now, then where he came from.

        I don’t have any respect for anyone who takes criminal cases, knowing that they are not qualified to accept such a cases. I get angry when I see civil lawyers taking fees on criminal cases, knowing that they haven’t a clue what they are doing. These bastards bumble about, pretending to know what they are doing & people go to prison. This makes my blood boil!
        Robb

        Reply
    2. Skylar Williams

      August 3, 2016 at 2:45 am

      I don’t blame lawyers for taking cases that they don’t specialize in. I understand that sometimes it’s hard to make money. It doesn’t mean that it’s okay to lead people on. It just goes to show the importance of finding the right person for the job. I’m looking for an attorney right now. It’s been hard to find someone who has the experience in my type of case.

      Reply

    Leave a Reply