How Much Do Private Criminal Law Attorneys Cost?

It’s a scenario that no one ever wants to face: You’ve been arrested and accused of a crime. This ordeal could turn your life upside down by threatening your freedom, reputation and future. Without experienced legal help, you will not likely mount any defense. You may not even recognize if your rights are violated. A criminal defense lawyer can be your biggest advocate during the arrest and trial period. While the court will provide a public defender if you can’t afford to pay a lawyer, you may prefer to hire someone. It’s important to understand the financial implications of this decision.

Many Variables

A host of factors will determine how much you pay for an attorney’s expert legal help during a criminal case. Costs can vary considerably depending on circumstances. In general, the more experienced an attorney is, the more you will pay. Lawyers who are well into their careers may charge up to $400 an hour for services, while brand-new ones may charge as little as $50 an hour. The location makes a difference too. Attorneys at large law firms in big cities may bill you as much as $500 an hour, but smaller firms in rural areas may charge $100 an hour. The type of case and the complexity of the accusations will play a role, too, in how much the lawyer charges.

The Retainer

Some lawyers will require a retainer to gain their services. This is similar to making a down payment on a car or home. These fees are usually non-refundable if you drop the case; however, lawyers will eventually deduct the retainer from the total cost. The retainer fee could be thousands of dollars.

Flat Fee

Instead of charging per hour, the criminal defense attorney may charge a standard payment for all the services. You may be able to work out payment arrangements with the lawyer. It’s important to understand what is included in this flat fee, as some lawyers may exclude items such as court filings and other aspects of the case.


There may be times when the lawyer is willing to work out contingency fees. This means you won’t have to pay unless you win the case. However, this is usually only applicable in civil suits such as malpractice and injury cases.

There’s no question that it takes a financial commitment to hire a lawyer. However, in a criminal case, it is worth every effort you make to protect your rights and achieve the outcome you want.