Bakersfield Federal Criminal Lawyers: Your Guide to Finding the Right Attorney
When researching Bakersfield federal criminal lawyers, prior experience handling federal cases is the most important qualification to look for. An attorney who primarily handles state criminal cases may not have the right skills and knowledge to effectively defend a federal case.
Some key indicators of expertise to look for include:
- Years of experience practicing federal criminal defense specifically. Look for 10+ years of experience for the best representation.
- Familiarity with the federal district court where your case is being prosecuted (for Bakersfield, this would be the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California).
- A track record of positive case results for past federal criminal clients. This could include dismissed charges, acquittals, reduced sentences, etc.
- Membership in professional associations for federal criminal defense lawyers, such as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
- Past experience as a federal prosecutor. This can provide inside knowledge of federal prosecution strategies.
Don’t hesitate to ask any potential lawyer detailed questions about their federal criminal defense experience during an initial consultation.
Understanding the Federal Criminal Process
An experienced federal criminal lawyer will also have in-depth knowledge of the unique federal criminal justice process. Some key differences vs. state criminal cases include:
- Investigation – Federal investigations are often lengthy and can go on for months or even years before any charges are filed. Federal agencies like the FBI, DEA, ATF, and IRS conduct extensive investigations.
- Charging – Federal charges tend to be more severe than state charges for equivalent crimes. Federal sentencing guidelines also limit judicial discretion in sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentences are common.
- Discovery – Federal prosecutors are required to provide more evidence disclosure during discovery than state prosecutors. But the discovery process itself tends to be more drawn out.
- Plea Bargaining – Over 90% of federal criminal cases end in a plea bargain rather than trial. Negotiating a favorable plea deal is a critical skill.
- Sentencing – Even if you plead guilty, federal sentencing can be a long and complex process with sentencing memos, objections, hearings, etc.
Thorough knowledge of the federal criminal process ensures your lawyer handles each stage effectively.
Asking the Right Questions During an Initial Consultation
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to set up initial consultations. This is your chance to interview lawyers and find the right fit. Some key questions to ask prospective lawyers during an initial meeting include:
- How much experience do you have handling federal criminal cases similar to mine? How many have you handled in the past 5 years?
- Are you familiar with the specific federal judges and prosecutors for the Eastern District of California?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the government’s potential case against me that you can identify so far?
- What will your investigative process look like if I hire you? What are some potential defenses you would explore?
- Based on your experience, what do you expect the government’s initial plea offer to be if I am charged?
- If my case does go to trial, what is your track record of getting federal criminal charges dismissed pre-trial or winning at trial?
- If I am convicted, what strategies would you use at sentencing to seek a below-guidelines sentence?
- What are the unique risks and challenges of my specific situation that I may not be aware of?
- How responsive can I expect you to be regarding my case questions and concerns?
- What are the next steps if I do decide to hire you?
Thorough initial consultations will give you a sense of the lawyer’s expertise and communication style. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions – this is a major decision.
The cost of a federal criminal defense lawyer can vary substantially depending on experience level, case complexity, and fee structure. Some general cost ranges to expect:
- Entry-level federal lawyers – $200 – $350 per hour
- Experienced federal lawyers – $350 – $750+ per hour
- Complex federal cases – Often billed as flat fees starting at $10,000 – $25,000+
- Appeals – Average around $10,000 – $20,000+ depending on the complexity
- Large law firms – Hourly rates from $500 – $1,000+ per hour
While every case is different, most federal criminal cases end up costing anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000+ depending on how far the case proceeds. It’s essential to understand the lawyer’s fee structure and get cost estimates in writing before moving forward.