The following is taken from an interview with Virginia defense attorney Mary Nerino as she discusses the important aspects you should consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney. To discuss your case and begin building a defense, call and schedule a consultation today.
A lot of people ask me how they can find the best criminal defense attorney, and I think that it’s a hard question to answer. I don’t think that the idea of the “best” criminal defense attorney really exists. I think that choosing an attorney is a difficult and very personal process, and there’s not one best attorney that fits every single client. For the most part, clients need to look at a range of characteristics, including:
A client needs to be able to trust his or her attorney, and sometimes an attorney that works for some clients won’t work for others because that connection just isn’t there. Your attorney’s actions might dictate whether you walk out of the courthouse or go to jail. So that person needs to be someone that you absolutely trust and have confidence in, and that looks different from client to client and from case to case.
Choosing the “best” criminal defense attorney is a very personalized process that needs to be approached on a case-by-case basis.
In criminal cases, experience comes in different forms. One type is experience with a particular charge under Virginia law and therefore experience with the defenses that could be appropriate based on that charge. Another type is experience with local court systems, local judges, local prosecutors and local police officers. And it’s important to point out that the outcome of your case will potentially vary depending on the location of your case. In Virginia, one county might treat a case differently than another county. I see this very often with reckless driving charges. If you’re charged for going a certain speed in one county, you might be facing jail time, but if you’re charged for the same speed in another county, you might just face a fine, or you might even be able to have the charge reduced to an infraction.
It’s really important that an attorney has experience not only with the charge itself, but also with the counties, police officers, judges and the commonwealth’s attorney. That experience helps the attorney give you an accurate picture of what’s going to happen in your case and also helps him or her approach the case in the most effective way possible.
An attorney who treats every charge the same way regardless of the county is not going to be as successful as somebody who has a tailored approach to each different county, prosecutor and judge. As much as experience with a large number of cases is important, it’s also important that your attorney has experience within the locality of your case.
We’ve talked about the importance of knowing exactly what steps to take based on the specific locality of a charge, and that’s what makes me a good choice for an individual charged with a criminal offense in Virginia. I know a lot of different counties in Virginia. I’ve practiced in nine counties, and the Eastern District of Virginia and I know that each county and court requires a different approach.
The process of building a case starts with the initial contact with the prosecutor or police officers. Then it continues with motions practice, which is when we file a motion to keep evidence out of a trial. The process also extends to getting discovery, which is the evidence that the prosecution has against my client in advance of the court date. And there are different ways to do this in each of the counties in Virginia. My experience practicing in multiple counties is something that sets me apart from other attorneys because I’m familiar with all of the different ways that these steps need to be accomplished in different counties. And the deadlines that accompany them. As a result, I can take the right steps from the very beginning in order to make a successful case for my client.
Some qualities that I bring to the table that other attorneys may not are my passion, dedication, and zeal in my representation of my clients. I’m often found doing work on the weekend or during hours that other people are typically doing other things. That’s because I genuinely enjoy the work and I enjoy finding ways to improve clients’ defenses.
This sets me apart because lots of other attorneys have many other things to do. They might have children or families, or events that they need to get to. However, I prefer to spend my time working for my clients, even if that extends late into the night, over the weekend or on holidays. I make myself as available as possible to do the work that’s necessary for my clients.