Do criminal attorneys in California offer payment plans?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

attorney payment plans
A criminal lawyer in California may offer his clients payment plans

Criminal attorneys in California may offer payment plans. They are not required to do so though. It is in the lawyer's discretion as to whether he will offer this form of payment.

And, if provided, the lawyer might still require a retainer up front, or a fee paid prior to any formal representation.

In addition to payment plans, California criminal lawyers may:

  • charge clients by the hour, or
  • offer a fixed fee for their legal services.

The exact amount that a criminal attorney will charge a client will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • the complexity of the case,
  • the criminal charges involved, and
  • the lawyer's experience.

Are payment plans offered by California criminal defense attorneys?

A criminal lawyer in California may offer his clients payment plans. If so, the plan typically involves a client paying the attorney a set monthly payment. The payments continue until the client pays off the total amount owed to the lawyer for his services.

Please note that it is entirely in the attorney's discretion as to whether he will offer a payment plan. Lawyers are not required, by law, to provide these plans to their clients. And, if one is offered, the lawyer might still require a retainer to be paid up front.

The benefit of a payment plan, if agreed to, is that a client can spread the overall cost of legal services out over time.

Can California criminal lawyers charge by the hour?

Criminal defense attorneys can charge their clients by the hour. This means clients pay their lawyer for the actual time he/she spends on a case. An example of an hourly fee is $125 per one hour that the lawyer spends working.

There are pros and cons to hourly charges. The main advantage is that they favor cases that end fast. Clients will pay less for a quick resolution to a matter. The main con is that attorney fees will grow very expensive if a case grows complicated or takes a long time to conclude.

In any event, an attorney should be able to provide an honest estimate as to how long a case will last.

Do criminal lawyers in California offer fixed fees for their services?

California criminal attorneys may charge a client a fixed fee for handling a case. A fixed fee means the client pays the lawyer a set amount for him/her to handle the case – from beginning to end. And, this fee will not change even if the lawyer spends an incredible amount of time handling the matter. An example of a fixed fee is when a California DUI attorney charges a client $2,000 to handle the entirety of his drunk driving case.

Like hourly payments, there are pros and cons to fixed fees. The pro is that a client will know exactly how much his legal fees will cost. The main con is that a client might feel like he paid too much if his case ends quickly.

May California criminal defense attorneys charge a retainer?

A criminal lawyer in California can ask for a retainer. This is a fee that the lawyer may ask for prior to any formal representation begins. If a client pays a retainer, then an attorney will deduct his initial charges from the amount of the retainer.

Consider, for example, a lawyer that asks for a $1,000 retainer. The lawyer also charges the client per hour for his services, at the rate of $100/hour. If the lawyer works five hours on the case, he will be owed $500. Rather than ask the client for this money, though, the attorney will just take it from the initial $1,000 retainer. And, there will be $500 left to pay for future services.

How much can a criminal defense attorney charge for his/her services?

The exact amount that a California criminal lawyer will charge will depend on a variety of factors. The top four include:

  1. the complexity of the case,
  2. the type of charges filed against the defendant,
  3. the experience of the lawyer, and
  4. the attorney's location.

As to the latter, a criminal lawyer in a big city may charge more for his representation than a lawyer in an isolated legal market in a small town.

Are public offenders available to take on a criminal case if an accused cannot afford an attorney?

If a defendant cannot afford to pay a private criminal defense attorney, he does have a constitutional right to have a public defender appointed to his case. Public defenders do not charge for their services. They are rather paid by the government.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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