PSA: What You Should Look For In A Lawyer?

3 minute read

Posted by: DeepDotWeb

March 29, 2015

Posted originally on Reddit by /u/NCLawyer,  who is a USA based licensed attorney & is often taking his time to provides useful advice for the /r/darketnetmarkets community, join the discussion on the original post:

Given all the uncertainty and anxiety about the markets, I thought it might be helpful to post a guide with my thoughts on how to find the best criminal defense attorney should you ever need one. I’ve been verified by the mods here as a licensed attorney, so I just wanted to share some of my personal insight.

My first advice is to make sure to come up with a list of possible attorneys BEFORE something happens. Spend an hour of your day doing some research online and come up with a shortlist. I’ll give you all the guidance you need to narrow your list down.

I foresee two real situations that a vender/bulk buyer might face related to ordering from DNMs. First, state charges for possession, distribution, or trafficking. Or second, federal charges for any number of possession or trafficking related crimes or more serious crimes like conspiracy/mail fraud. We’ll take these in turn.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to retain someone to meet your specific needs. Don’t automatically go for the highest priced or most well known lawyer in your area. Similarly, don’t automatically go for the lawyer with the flashiest website who runs TV commercials. In this day and age, most attorneys will have some web presence with at least a biography. This is going to be your best friend.

Let’s tackle state charges first. A colleague once told me that practicing in federal court is like fencing while practicing in state court is like backyard street wresting. He was right. If you get charged in state court, you need someone with significant state court experience—preferably a former prosecutor. Prosecutors in state court are overworked and sentencing is not really tailored to the individual like in federal court (we’ll get to that), so you want to hire a bareknuckle boxer of a lawyer who will fight tooth and nail to get your charges dismissed or get you a great deal. Ideally you’ll want someone who devotes almost all of his practice to criminal defense. You don’t want a sissy civil lawyer who “does criminal cases from time to time.” If you’re ever in the situation where you have to meet with a few candidates on your list, ask them how many cases they’ve tried to a jury verdict. One of the most powerful tools to leverage a dismissal or good deal is making the prosecutor think he/she is actually going to have to try a case. It scares them to death.

Now let’s turn to federal court. Federal court is a really unique place in the criminal justice system. While state prosecutors are typically what you would imagine a prosecutor to be (an argumentative, litigious street fighter), federal prosecutors are oftentimes vastly different. In fact, often they’re nerds. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all – I’m a nerd myself. But federal prosecutors are all brilliant and usually very good at what they do. You need to meet force with force. Hire someone who was a former federal prosecutor or a former federal public defender. Really there’s no other option.

When you’re doing research online, federal prosecutors are called “Assistant United States (U.S.) Attorneys” so be on the lookout for that phrase. You’ll want to ask similar questions about experience, how many cases they’ve tried, etc… but there should be one other characteristic you’re looking for: former law clerks. Many lawyers (particularly former U.S. Attorneys) will have clerked for a judge right out of law school. You may see on their bio, “Law Clerk to the Honorable _____, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.” That is a great thing because they will know the judges intimately and know how the federal court system works from the inside out. Bonus points if you snag a former law clerk to the judge that is assigned your case!

99% of federal criminal defense is done pre-trial and post-trial (sentencing). Very, very rarely will a case ever go to trial. The federal sentencing guidelines are a bitch, so that’s one of the reasons you have to find someone with federal court experience. A good federal criminal lawyer can mean the difference between 8 years and 9 months in jail.

I’m sure there are 100 things I forgot to mention here, so I’ll open it up for comments/questions. Hope this has been helpful, if not please feel free to delete it!

Updated: 2015-03-29