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What Should You Look for in a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney?

criminal defense attorney

Facing criminal charges for a white collar crime or of any kind can be a life-changing situation. While you may have been wrongfully accused, set up, or otherwise face unjust criminal charges, it is essential to remember your rights so you are prepared to exercise them after an arrest. You have the right to remain silent after the police have arrested you, and it is always best to exercise this right to the fullest so you do not say anything that could potentially worsen your situation or strengthen the prosecution’s case. You also have the right to legal counsel, even if you cannot afford one. If you are looking for a San Diego criminal lawyer, you came to the right place. Our law offices are located in downtown San Diego, CA and also in Las Vegas, NV. 

While many people simply opt for legal representation from public defenders free of charge, the reality is that you can expect a much higher level of defense representation from a private criminal defense attorney. However, it’s vital to be selective in your choice of attorney. There are many factors you must consider before finding the attorney that’s best for handling your criminal case and your attorney client relationship is a key factor in winning your case. 

What Should You Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney?

The most important factors to evaluate when researching a criminal defense attorney include experience, flexibility, defense philosophy, billing policies, honesty, and transparency.


Perhaps the most crucial factor to consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney is experience level. You not only want an attorney who has a solid track record of professional legal experience but also specific experience handling the type of criminal case you currently face. For example, if you are facing a drug trafficking charge and have a choice between an attorney with five years of criminal defense experience but no drug trafficking cases and an attorney with two years of experience that includes multiple drug trafficking cases, the latter option would probably be the more suitable choice for your current situation.

Make sure you take advantage of consultation offers from prospective attorneys and ask them many questions about their experience levels. While there are many fresh attorneys available to defend clients in the San Diego area, and they bring lots of talent and enthusiasm to the table, there is simply no substitute for solid experience.



When you hire a criminal defense attorney, you are making a major investment in your future. It’s essential to know how the attorney intends to handle your case, their defense style, and how you can contact them as your case unfolds. Public defenders are available free of charge, and most of them are talented and capable attorneys. However, they must handle multiple cases at once and can therefore devote very little individual attention to any given case. This is the major advantage of securing defense representation from a private criminal defense attorney; while you will need to pay for legal fees, you are investing in more personalized and responsive legal counsel.

Defense Philosophy

It’s important to know how your chosen attorney intends to approach your case. Will they strive for a speedy plea bargain or fight on your behalf in court? Litigation may take longer but could mean the difference between a conviction and an acquittal. Make sure you know how the attorney intends to handle your case. They should ask you many questions during your initial consultation and be able to provide a realistic interpretation of your legal situation, including your most likely outcomes. While it’s important to be realistic about your situation, it is also vital to find a criminal defense law firm and attorney whose defense philosophy meshes well with your expectations and values.

Billing Policy

Legal fees are notoriously expensive in the US, and this has, unfortunately, led many people to assume that defense representation is out of their reach due to the prohibitive cost. However, this is not always true, and many criminal defense attorneys provide reasonable and flexible pricing to their clients. Before agreeing to any lawyer’s representation, make sure you fully understand their billing policy. Ask them how they bill their time, whether they offer flat fee billing for any specific legal services, and how long they intend to spend working on your case. When a criminal defense attorney charges an hourly rate and they can give you an estimate of the time they intend to spend handling your case, this allows you to roughly estimate the overall cost of your legal fees.

Honesty and Transparency

When you meet with a prospective defense attorney, take the opportunity to evaluate their demeanor and their ability to answer your questions. A good defense attorney should be able to assess your position quickly and honestly, help you understand your best available legal options, and explain in detail how your case is likely to unfold. They should also be willing to keep you apprised of the latest in your case.

During your consultation with a potential attorney, try to gauge how long it takes them to answer your questions and judge the thoroughness of their responses. Experienced defense attorneys should be able to quickly assess the finer points of your case and highlight your biggest areas of concern. Ultimately, you may need to simply trust your instincts and choose the defense attorney who makes you feel the most confident about your situation.

Do Your Research

Whether you’ve been arrested for drug crimes, DUI, assault, or a homicide charge, time is a critical factor in any criminal case. However, you should not feel so rushed that you accept representation from the first available criminal defense attorney. Be discerning as you narrow down your list of your top candidates for legal representation. Look at reviews from past clients online, and be sure to check outside of the attorney’s own website so you can be sure you’re seeing an honest depiction of past clients’ experiences with the attorney. You should also look for personal recommendations if possible. If you know someone who recently defeated a criminal case, ask them about their defense attorney and whether they would recommend them.


Once you have a handful of potential attorneys in mind,  it’s not unheard of to ask them for the names of former clients. If you reach out, don’t be afraid to ask strategic questions. For instance, you’ll want to ask if they were happy with how matters were handled. Was the lawyer accessible and professional throughout the process? Were there any surprise bills?

Other helpful sources of reviews include websites and search engines. However, it’s important to exercise caution in vetting reviews. Look for patterns that indicate either a poor or standout experience. Beware of outliers that might mislead you.

Make the Right Choice with Zentz & Zentz

It’s vital to use an appropriate level of caution in your search for a criminal defense attorney in San Diego or Las Vegas. With the right research and discretion, you could be on your way to getting your life back in no time. No matter what type of criminal charges you face, reliable legal representation is essential for the best chance of defeating the charges against you. If you need defense counsel as soon as possible, the team at Zentz & Zentz can provide the aggressive and meticulous representation you need to approach your case with confidence.

 Contact us today for more information about the legal services we provide and the types of criminal cases our firm handles.

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