Hundreds of thousands of crimes are reported every year in the state of New York, so it’s not difficult to get arrested here.

The most important thing to remember – if you are arrested and charged with committing any felony or misdemeanor in New York – is that you must obtain the advice and representation of an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.

HOW WILL A DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU?

A good criminal defense lawyer working on your behalf will:

1. scrutinize in detail the charge against you
2. begin an independent, immediate investigation of the case
3. interrogate witnesses and review evidence
4. craft an effective, aggressive defense strategy

But what if you are uncomfortable – for any reason whatsoever – with the first attorney you contact? Keep reading for some sound advice.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE SEEK A SECOND LEGAL OPINION?

Many people who would not hesitate to seek a second medical opinion don’t even consider getting a second legal opinion, but you may have good reasons to seek a second attorney’s advice.

These are the two primary reasons why a defendant who is charged with a crime may seek a second legal opinion:

1. The defendant simply doesn’t like the opinion offered by the first attorney.
2. The defendant wants to ensure that the first attorney’s recommendations are the same recommendations that other attorneys would offer.

If you are charged with a crime, and you want a second attorney to take a look at your case, one thing that you must understand is that no criminal defense attorney can ever promise or guarantee an outcome to any particular criminal case.

WHAT CAN AN ATTORNEY PROMISE YOU?

What a good criminal defense attorney can guarantee is that he or she will work diligently and aggressively to bring your case to its best possible conclusion.

In many cases that will mean the dismissal of charges or a not guilty verdict. But in many other cases – and especially if the evidence against you is persuasive – the best resolution of the case may be a plea bargain, reduced or alternative sentencing, or entry into a diversion program.

In other words, if you are seeking an attorney who will promise a dismissal of charges or a not guilty verdict, seeking a second opinion, or even a third or fourth opinion, won’t help you. No qualified attorney will or can guarantee a dismissal of charges or a not guilty verdict.

But if you have other reasons for seeking a second legal opinion, you should.

WHAT ARE GOOD REASONS FOR SEEKING A SECOND LAWYER’S OPINION?

If for any reason you do not feel comfortable with, trust, or understand an attorney, or if you think another attorney might be able to offer you different insights or different legal alternatives, then it’s fine to speak with another attorney.

Every lawyer has strengths and weaknesses as a lawyer. You may believe that the first attorney you speak with seems overwhelmed, isn’t prompt or punctual, should be fighting harder for you, or is costing you too much. Speaking to a second attorney may be helpful.

If you speak to a second attorney, you should tell your first attorney that you are seeking a second opinion, and you should tell the second attorney that you are contacting that attorney for a separate opinion.

DO YOU HAVE TO FIRE YOUR LAWYER TO SPEAK TO ANOTHER LAWYER?

You do not have to fire your first lawyer if you are seeking a second opinion merely to verify and confirm your first lawyer’s opinions and recommendations.

However, if you prefer to proceed on the second attorney’s advice, you’ll probably have to retain that lawyer and terminate your relationship with the first lawyer.

The reality, of course, is that some lawyers are better than others. If you are charged with a crime in the state of New York, what should you look for when you select a criminal defense lawyer to advise and represent you?

WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN A DEFENSE LAWYER?

Let’s imagine that you’re charged with a violent felony, and you decide to speak with a defense attorney. The attorney tells you that you are likely to be convicted if your case goes to a jury trial, and the attorney recommends taking a plea bargain that will mean a reduced sentence.

This first defense attorney even agrees to represent you for a low fee, let’s say $1,000. But in this scenario, you believe that you are innocent, and you do not want any plea bargain or any criminal conviction of any kind on your record, so you seek a second opinion.

This second lawyer draws an entirely different picture for you, believes that you can be acquitted, and promises to defend you aggressively in court. And the second lawyer’s fee is $5,000. Which attorney would you choose?

It’s a sad fact that, in spite of the cost, many people accused of a crime would go with the second attorney. The first lawyer has provided candid, practical advice at an affordable cost, while the second lawyer may or may not be offering a high-priced fantasy.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU CONSIDER WHEN SELECTING AN ATTORNEY?

How can a defendant know what to do? There is no easy solution, but if you are the defendant in this scenario, you’ll need to consider several important factors.

For example, even if you believe that you are innocent, consider what the evidence might look like to an objective outsider. Does it point to your guilt or to your innocence?

You might even consider talking to a third or fourth attorney and trying to get a “consensus” opinion – the opinion that “most” attorneys would give you.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION?

Probably the most important consideration is “your gut” and what it’s telling you. You must be represented by an attorney whom you genuinely, personally trust and have confidence in.

Ask your friends and family members for lawyer recommendations and referrals. Your money, your time, and your future are valuable, so make your selection carefully. You do not have to retain the first lawyer you speak to.

But if you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor in the state of New York, you can’t take your time, either. To provide you with an effective defense, your attorney needs to be on the case as quickly as possible.
If you’re facing criminal charges, begin your search for an attorney by immediately contacting a qualified criminal defense attorney. In some cases, that’s the only call that you’ll need to make.

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.

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