How Much Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Cost in Philadelphia?

How Much Does a Criminal…

One of the biggest questions clients always have is how much it will cost to hire a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, legal fees vary too widely from one attorney to another to answer the question directly. Even if you could provide some meaningful estimate, the truth is that the real value of legal representation depends on several other considerations. If you are truly unable to afford legal representation, you may qualify for free legal help through the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Ultimately, you need to understand much more than just the price - you need to understand what services will be included, how the legal fees will be billed to you, and whether you will be responsible for any additional costs.

Flat Fees

Many criminal defense attorneys will charge a flat fee for a particular case or service. For example, your lawyer may charge a flat fee of $2,500 for handling your DUI case, or they may handle routine court appearances at $350.00 each rather than at their full hourly rate.

At Wimmer Criminal Defense, we typically charge a flat fee for representation for a federal criminal case or a state criminal case in Philadelphia County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Bucks County, Chester County, Camden County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County. Our criminal appeals and PCRA practice also bills in one flat fee.

Flat fee billing can present a good value for clients and give them the peace of mind knowing exactly what to expect. That said, be aware that the fee is the same regardless of what actually happens. This means that you pay the same fee if your DUI charges are dismissed in the first week or your attorney has to take your case all the way to trial.

Retainer Fees

Some criminal defense attorneys will require that you pay a retainer fee up front. The retainer is similar to pre-paying for your legal fees, in that any services rendered will be first billed against your retainer. Once the retainer is exhausted, your attorney will then begin sending you bills periodically. In the event that your case is resolved and the entire retainer has not been spent, the remaining balance can be refunded to you.

At Wimmer Criminal Defense, we typically charge a retainer fee for representation for a federal criminal case or a state criminal case that involves a Violation of Probation.

The retainer fee is intended to guard against the attorney not getting paid for their services. The work involved at the outset of the case can be intense, and the attorney takes on significant risk in handling the case without really knowing you. Your attorney may forego the retainer for future matters once you have established a relationship.

We should also point how that some attorneys charge a retainer in every case, while others may require one only in cases that they think will be complex and time-consuming. Some attorneys will adjust the retainer fee on a case-by-case basis and according to what you can comfortably pay.

Hourly Fees

Many criminal defense attorneys bill for their services on an hourly basis, often in tenths of an hour. You, therefore, need to know the attorney's hourly rate in order to understand what they are billing you. For example, if your attorney's hourly rate is $400 per hour, you will be billed $200.00 for a half hour of work.

The hourly rates charged by Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys cover a broad spectrum. Generally speaking, more experienced attorneys will charge a higher hourly rate. Larger firms also tend to charge a higher hourly rate. Some attorneys will vary their hourly rate based on how complex your case will be.

Many people are intimidated by the prospect of being billed by the hour, which is totally understandable. That said, an experienced criminal defense attorney can probably provide you with an estimate for handling your case. In addition, some attorneys may choose not to bill for emails or phone calls. When hiring an attorney, be sure to understand exactly what you will be billed for and what is excluded. Good communication can help avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Hybrid Models

Some criminal defense attorneys will employ a hybrid model, which typically involves a mix of both flat fee and hourly billing. The attorney may handle certain tasks at a flat fee and other aspects of your case at their hourly rate. Routine, predictable tasks are often those that get billed at a flat rate. Things like motions hearings and trials tend to get billed at an hourly rate because they are unpredictable and it’s difficult to estimate how long they will take.

Some lawyers may offer a monthly, flat-rate to cover any work performed on your case or certain aspects of your case. For example, they may charge you a flat fee of $100 per month for all meetings, phone calls, and email correspondence. They may be offering arrangement primarily to encourage free and open communication, using the fee just to offset their lost income.

Fees for Support Staff or Other Attorneys

Your attorney may also use support staff such as paralegals or associate attorneys to handle certain aspects of your case. While they may bill at a significantly lower rate, you want to be sure you understand what those rates are in advance.

Miscellaneous Costs

Many clients get over-focused on the legal fees they will have to pay, and don’t pay attention to the potential costs that will be passed through to them. Over time, these costs can add up, so it’s a good idea to understand what costs you will be responsible for. Here are some examples of some of the costs your attorney may pass through to you:

  • Mailing and delivery charges
  • Court filing fees
  • Technology fees for the use of certain online resources
  • Copying charges

Third-Party Costs

While the miscellaneous costs noted above may be relatively low, third-party costs can be quite expensive. These are costs that are usually charged by other professionals that are needed to help defend you against the charges. Here are some come third-party fees that can be significant:

  • Private investigators
  • Expert witnesses
  • Forensic accountants (often used in allegations of white-collar financial crimes)
  • Court reporters

Some of these third-parties may charge hundreds of dollars per hour, so it’s good to know up-front what they will cost. Ultimately, it should be your decision as to whether you engage their services

Do NOT Try and Conceal Assets or Income to Qualify for a Public Defender

Some people facing criminal charges may consider trying to hide assets or income in order to qualify for free legal representation. It’s important to understand that if you lie on your application for a public defender, you are committing perjury, which can result in separate criminal charges and consequences. In 2015, CBS Philly reported that a Florida man who was serving 19 years for child pornography faced the possibility of 5 more years due to lying about not being able to afford a lawyer. If you think you will have trouble paying for legal representation, talk to several attorneys. Some may be willing to get you on a payment plan, accept collateral, or trade services or goods for legal representation.

Contact Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Lauren Wimmer Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

While your legal defense is ultimately based on principle, we understand that the financial decisions can be just as important. At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we provide our clients with aggressive legal representation without compromising the need for you to be financially responsible. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, call us at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a totally free, no-obligation consultation.