The Locke Law Group

11 Tips For Hiring A San Antonio, TX Criminal Defense Attorney


October 17, 2019

In San Antonio, Texas there are a number of attorneys who claim to be criminal defense attorneys. How should you choose among them? How do you decide who the attorney is to represent you against a criminal accusation? Our country is built upon the rule of law, and our adherence to the law as a community of people is one shining star of our great democracy. Justice for all should mean for everyone, always, regardless of who they are. And as justice is defined as ‘just behavior or treatment’ that means justice for victims and justice for offenders who are found to be guilty of crimes. Subsequently, justice for a victim is often the trial and conviction of the guilty offender.

Sometimes justice is dealt to offenders who have a clear record of wrongdoing or corruption, but often the offender is an average person who has lived an honest life but for whatever reason made an error in judgment, got caught up in an emotional situation that went south, was pressured into committing a crime (duress), or another reason.

At The Locke Law Group, Shannon Locke is one of San Antonio, TX few board certified criminal defense attorneys. This means he specializes in criminal defense and has been certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization as an expert in criminal law. We represent every kind of client in every kind of criminal case imaginable. We understand that good people sometimes do bad things, and often immediately feel remorse, but what’s done is done. And when this happens, it’s the opinion of The Locke Law Group that one mistake should not ruin an entire life. On the other side of the coin, we also understand that many people are falsely accused and arrested for crimes which they did not commit, and we believe it is our duty to right these wrongs.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, or if you feel that charges are pending, the best and first course of action you should take is to bring a skilled, seasoned San Antonio criminal defense attorney on board as soon as possible. If you’re already in the justice system then the game is on, because prosecutors will now be actively working to put you behind bars and pad their conviction rate record. Every prosecutor working in the world desires as many convictions as they can get because convictions often lead to success, such as promotions, prestige, higher office, and more money. It’s all good for the prosecutor if he or she wins.

So when we say the game is on, we mean… the game is on, and if you’re the one who has been charged you absolutely need a partner who will be with you from the start to the finish. You need a criminal defense attorney who will work harder and is hungrier for that win than the prosecution, and one who has a track record of getting cases dismissed or winning acquittals. A seasoned criminal defense attorney will have relationships with prosecutors that can work to help you. Yes, we know that that sounds like we’re fraternizing with the enemy but nothing could be further from the truth. As odd as it may sound, many times experienced criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors are friends; it stands to reason as they are often working in the same office daily—the courts.

Therefore, if you hire a criminal defense attorney who has solid relationships with prosecutors and judges, your attorney may be able to negotiate, and get your charges downgraded to a lesser offense, or arrange for you to enter a program in lieu of jail, or receive probation, or a number of other scenarios all of which could potentially make your situation better. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is always a good idea.

In light of just how important it is for you to secure a criminal defense attorney in San Antonio who is at the top of their game, we’ve taken the liberty of providing you a quick checklist of eleven tips, factors you should consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney in San Antonio, or wherever you are in the country. We’ll make our case for communication, reputation, and references, all of which we regard as absolutely essential considerations, then quick list others you need to consider. Let’s begin.

#1 — Make Sure They Are A Great Communicator

Considering all that is at stake in a criminal case, it should be obvious why you need a San Antonio criminal defense attorney who is a great communicator, because it takes a special kind of attorney with exceptional communication abilities, a command of language, and excellent social skills to deliver complex information in a friendly, thorough, yet easy to understand manner. Some attorneys may know the law, but they might not be good communicators. And if your attorney cannot communicate well, then how can they explain your case to you, dissect the law, your options, and more? After all, you’ve come to them to break it all down for you, and to serve your best interests. You need to be, you must be, informed, so you need a criminal defense attorney who is a top-level communicator. But beyond your own understanding, your criminal defense attorney must also be able to break it down for a jury and get them to see the facts from the plaintiff’s perspective, because if they cannot do that, then what are you paying them for?

#2 — Ask For References And Study Their Track Record Of Success

Skill, it’s not something you can learn. In law school, students prepare and work hard toward their dreams of practicing law. But no matter how much you study or read about landmark decisions and cases, you won’t learn skill in school. Skill comes from experience, and experience must be earned by putting your feet to the fire so to speak; you simply must prepare and go to trial again and again in order to gather that experience that forms the basis for skill. But experience alone will not necessarily even result in skill.

What does this all mean? It means that at the bare minimum you must choose a criminal defense attorney who has experience, but you must look deeper because there are plenty of experienced attorneys who don’t have that winning edge. For this reason, you simply must ask for references and study their track record of success. You don’t want to be represented by an experienced loser any more than you want a green attorney with no experience at all. Ask around, request referrals from friends and colleagues, do your research online, check with attorney rating sites and services, and make sure that the criminal defense attorney you choose is a winner, with all the necessary skills to win in court—for you. Your finances, reputation, career, and possibly even your freedom is on the line, so if there was ever a time to take the time to do extensive due diligence, this is it.

#3 — Get The Right Kind Of Experience

Many attorneys have experience, but the kind of experience matters. Just as you would never hire a plumber to do your taxes, you don’t want a tax attorney defending you in a criminal court. Many attorney firms offer every service for every legal area imaginable, but you don’t need variety—you need specificity. When your freedom and reputation is at stake, make sure you hire a criminal defense attorney who is known for criminal defense.

Shannon Locke is a former Bexar County Assistant District Attorney. As a prosecutor Mr. Locke tried more than one hundred cases to a jury. As a defense attorney he built on this experience and has defended his clients against everything from murder to Driving While Intoxicated. Mr. Locke’s reputation as a trial attorney will help give you the best possible chance of getting your case dismissed or negotiated to an agreement you can accept.

#4 — Look For Passion

An initial interview with a prospective attorney is somewhat like digging a well. When you dig a well, you discover everything that is below the land’s surface—layers. You might discover clay, rock, and hopefully… water. In an interview with a prospective attorney you’re looking for that water, but will you find it? As you provide information about your case, this time will give you an opportunity to dig deeper into your evaluation of the prospective criminal defense attorney as well. In our scenario, the water is most certainly comprised of attorney knowledge, skill, and experience, but if there is no passion for the law then you should keep looking, because if the attorney can’t display passion about the law to you, how will they ever convince a jury that you are innocent?

When you leave our office you should leave with three things 1) An understanding of your legal situation 2) An idea of the strategy that we would employ to achieve your goals 3) A feeling that we understand your goals and why you need to have them achieved.

#5 — Discuss Options & Get A Sense Of How They Will Handle Your Case

If you’ve been charged with a crime, misdemeanor or felony, you’ll need to get an understanding of the law and the applicable penal codes. Your San Antonio criminal defense attorney should be able to help you grasp the complex details of how the laws are written and how they apply to you. He or she should help you understand the nature of the charges that were filed against you, and what the prosecution will be expecting. And as you dig into this information with your San Antonio criminal defense attorney, they should explain what defenses are available to you, and the approach to take to mount a specific kind of defense.

A quality criminal defense attorney will provide an overview of plea bargains, and discuss whether it is likely that the prosecution will offer one in your case. Your attorney, if you’ve picked a good one with experience, will walk you through various scenarios and explain all the necessary elements that he or she will need to gather, in order to mount a powerful defense for you. And, he or she will explain not only your options but what is to be expected after your trial, whether you are acquitted or convicted. A great criminal defense attorney will have relationships with top investigators and expert witnesses whom they can utilize to build your case with strong evidence and testimony.

This is just a small selection of the many things your criminal defense attorney should be able to do for you. Obviously, you won’t be able to go through all of this in detail in a brief initial interview but ask for a general explanation of how the attorney might assemble the various parts of your case to prepare for trial.

#6 — Consider The Entire Team

Sometimes a chain is only as good as its weakest link. If you’re putting all your faith into one firm, then you are essentially counting on every person in that firm to deliver you to safety, to return you to your life as a free person with career and reputation intact. When selecting a San Antonio criminal defense attorney, you need to know that everyone on the attorney’s team is solid because the attorney will be leaning on all of them to help build your case. Do yourself a favor and ask to meet the firm’s other lawyers, administrative staff, and paralegals, because every one of them will be working for you.

#7 — Seek Confidence, But Avoid Arrogance

No attorney can guarantee a particular outcome; there are too many variables, and if it comes down to a jury’s decision, that is the biggest variable of all. A good San Antonio criminal defense attorney will explain, confidently, how they will build your case piece by piece, assembling the facts and evidence that may persuade the prosecution to dismiss your case or convince a jury that you are innocent. However, you should be wary of any attorney who comes across as arrogant and makes lofty promises about your case that an ethical attorney would never make.

#8 — Consider The Time They Give You, And Whether It’s Quality Time

Again, that initial interview is a great place to evaluate your potential criminal defense attorney. When you sit down with them during your initial interview to talk about your case, observe them and their actions. Are they attentive? Do they look you in the eye? Are they listening to you, or simply waiting for you to stop talking so they can speak? There is a difference. Are they checking their watch? Do they seem like they’ve got somewhere better to be? Turn a critical eye upon their actions and mannerisms. If they seem like they are not completely there with you, giving you their undivided attention—move on.

#9 — One Word: Courtroom

Many cases go to trial, and a jury of people will be sitting there expecting to be convinced one way or the other, and hoping to do it as quickly as possible so they can get back to their lives. A criminal defense attorney must be prepared for that jury, and for the judge, who will be sitting there observing every move and considering the attorney’s every word, sometimes even denying their words and striking them from the record. The whole process is not for the faint of heart. If your criminal defense attorney is not confident in the courtroom, then you’re already at a loss before your trial even begins. Some cases are all about the courtroom performance, so go with an attorney who has extensive courtroom experience.

#10 — Ask About Fees

It is sometimes true that as the old adage says—you get what you pay for. And while most seasoned criminal defense attorneys with a fantastic winning track record will certainly charge much more than a green attorney fresh out of law school, you should not get taken to the proverbial bank. Attorneys of a certain level of skill and experience will often have a general range that they work within in terms of fees. If you are asking around, and find many attorneys of the same ilk and stature are charging fees in a similar range, and another attorney of the same relative skill level and experience is far more expensive, you should ask yourself why, and possibly keep looking.

#11 — Go With Your Gut

At the end of the day, you and you alone have to feel like your criminal defense attorney is the one for you, the one who you believe has your back, has the requisite experience, skill, and confidence to carry you through and win your case. Consider all your options, talk to your friends and family, but an attorney/client relationship is just that, it’s a relationship, and only you can decide what is best for you.

#12 — BONUS

Everyone likes a bonus, a little something extra, and #12 on a list of 11 Tips is certainly that. But we really wanted to give you an extra checklist, in addition to the information provided above. You might consider taking this checklist of questions with you to your initial attorney interview because the answers an attorney provides will be important for you to consider when making your final decision on which criminal defense attorney is right for you.

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND PERHAPS USE THEM AS A FOUNDATION UPON WHICH TO ASSEMBLE YOUR OWN QUESTIONS:
  • How much experience do you have handling cases like mine?
  • Will you provide references so that I can inquire about your past clients’ satisfaction?
  • If I hire you, what percentage of my casework will you actually perform personally?
  • Are you able to consistently achieve plea agreements or reduced charges for your clients?
  • How many times have you litigated before a jury, and what is your win ratio?
  • What are your fees and how do you calculate what I will have to pay?
  • Do you have any pathways to reduced payment or payment plans?

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About the Author

I believe that good lawyers are good problem solvers. When someone hires me to represent them I consider it a sacred trust. I take my job seriously because I know how much is on the line.