Payment Plans in Criminal Defense Cases vs Limited Representation: Examples
DUI: the pretrial fee is lowered and in return, there will be no in-person court or motions to suppress blood, breath, or urine tests to be filed unless there is additional payment. Limited consultations may also be part of the formula.
Domestic Violence: the client wants a bond motion filed to get the defendant out of jail and to change the “no contact” provision to “no violent contact” but no further representation because “he/she won’t show” but resides in the local area. This case is not suited for limited representation, but why? (This is one of the most common phone calls I get each week.)
The reason I will not do limited representation like this is that when a lawyer goes before the judge on limited representation, counsel must say something like “Stephen Cobb on behalf of John Doe entering a limited appearance for purposes of bond only.”
Sounds like everyday lawyer jargon, right? This is what the judge actually hears in their mind: “…hasn’t paid to represent, is just looking to get out of jail and a failure to appear risk.” Bond denied, client money wasted. Judges often bluntly ask if the lawyer has been fully retained.
For the lawyer, this is easy money. But you know what? No one retains a lawyer so the attorney can make easy money. People pay a legal fee because they are hoping for legal relief. Taking the limited service case when it is reasonably foreseeable this will potentially harm the client is just wrong.
Example: John Doe is charged with misdemeanor, non-domestic battery and is out of jail. The prospective client is out of jail on bond, wants limited services representation “because it’s an easy case” but insists on going to trial and will not even consider a negotiated dismissal of charges. He wants the lawyer to take the case for $500.00.
Mr. Doe, get serious and put a zero on that fee plus defense expenses for trial subpoenas and any other defense expenses related to a jury trial. No criminal defense lawyer is going to take a high maintenance client with a high maintenance case with limited services representation. The workload and expectations are just too high.
Example: Jane Doe is charged with murder… or has a well documented mental health disorder and is charged with aggravated stalking. The former is far too serious and time consuming to limit representation. The latter is far too time-consuming: although I love mental health criminal defense cases, brain disorder + stalking charges = lots of phone calls, frequent complaints, and numerous emails a week.
So, what to do for Jane Doe in either circumstance?
In a murder case, a full fee is so high that getting the whole thing upfront is impractical. Families often have to pool resources and liquidate stocks, bonds, or other assets. But it will be a full fee with as much paid upfront as is practical.
In the stalking case, this is a completely different scenario: a full fee upfront for full-service representation plus limitations on contact. You may not have been on the receiving end of 190 emails and 97 phone calls in a single month. I have. Repeatedly.
So, in our next installment about payment plans in criminal cases and limited representation, we’ll discuss some ways you can achieve limited representation and reduce your legal fees.