If you’re reading this post, it’s likely either you, a loved one or a good friend is under criminal investigation or has been charged with a crime. The situation has caused you to search for the best NJ criminal attorney to handle the case. This is probably the first and only time that you’ll need the services of a New Jersey criminal lawyer.

The internet is overrun with criminal lawyer websites, criminal lawyer lists, and lawyer rating services.

How do you work through all of the information out there to decide on the best NJ lawyer? Here are our suggestions, based on experience. We started out as criminal defense lawyers in Philadelphia in 1983. We have handled nearly every type of criminal case in the state and federal courts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and California. We’ve handled cases before judges of all backgrounds, and argued cases before diverse juries.

Applying that background, here, in no particular order, is our list of the qualities you’ll definitely want AND want to avoid in a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer.

  1. Experience. Has the lawyer been there and done that? The outcome of a criminal case can be devastating. You may lose your freedom, your family, your job and your reputation. A criminal case should not be handled by a personal injury lawyer, a workers comp lawyer, a divorce lawyer, a real estate lawyer, or a landlord tenant lawyer. Specialization in criminal cases over many years leads to expertise, and, it is true, experience is the greatest teacher.
  2. Scholarship. The law changes constantly. Courts decide important criminal law issues and make important rulings that can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Does your lawyer regularly read the latest case decisions? Does he or she follow all of the developments that may affect your case? Like experience, the skillful practice of law requires study – reading, writing, and processing information to boil it down and make it understandable to judges and juries.
  3. Writing Ability. Is this important? It sure is. Did you know that the vast majority of a lawyer’s advocacy on your behalf will be in writing, by way of letters, motions, and briefs? Good, clear, and persuasive writing is an essential skill for a criminal lawyer. It’s hard to do, and it is invaluable.
  4. Know-How. How to navigate the Court System. Imaging if you went to the hospital to have surgery, and your doctor didn’t know where the operating room was? Suppose that he or she was able to find the operating room, but didn’t know how to requisition that right instruments in advance? Or even where the masks and gowns were kept, or how to put them on? What if the surgery started before the anesthesia kicked in? Should we really have to monitor your heartbeat during the operation? You’d run out of that hospital for your very life. At the same time, you wouldn’t want a lawyer who didn’t know where to find the courtroom, didn’t know that you had to check in with the court clerk, didn’t know how to fill out the right paperwork, didn’t know who the prosecutors or probation officers were, or had no idea how to schedule a jail visit. Know-how comes from experience, but it focuses on the hands-on ability to efficiently and correctly navigate the court system.
  5. Contacts With the Most Qualified Experts. Criminal cases often require the use of expert witnesses in fields such as forensic accounting, psychology, eyewitness testimony, fingerprint, DNA, and drug analysis, and, in driving under the influence cases, admissibility of the Alcotest breath machine. Experts are widely consulted to provide a defense to criminal charges, and in mitigation of sentence in the event of a conviction. You need a lawyer who has worked with experts in many fields, and knows the best expert to call when it will benefit your case.
  6. Boundless Energy. When you are investigating a case and trying to find favorable evidence and witnesses, you have to be willing to look under every rock. Leave no stone unturned. Follow every lead. Need we say more?
  7. Patience. You need someone who will listen to you and obtain all relevant information from you and your witnesses. Your side of the story is critical and needs to be heard and understood. If your lawyer fails to listen, a full picture of the case won’t be developed, and your version of events will never see the light of day. An opportunity lost forever! Patience is key. Your lawyer must have an open mind, listen to you carefully, follow up with smart questions, and listen again.
  8. Assertiveness. Not Obnoxiousness. A lawyer needs to be confident, focused, and determined in how your case is handled. No lawyer should be pushed around.
  9. Can the Lawyer Adjust His Volume and Tone? Many criminal lawyers advertise their services as if they are “Rambo” and claim that they singlehandedly crush the opposition by their sheer aggressiveness. Rambo may be a good model for guerilla warfare, but a smart and truly effective lawyer must be able to adjust the volume and tone when dealing with judges, prosecutors, and witnesses. If your lawyer can only sing one note, and only at top volume, he will be perceived as insecure, ineffective, and incompetent. In fact, he probably is insecure, ineffective, and incompetent, a three part formula for disastrous outcome in your case.
  10. Respect in the Legal Community. An effective lawyer will be respected by judges and prosecutors. The respected lawyer’s arguments are taken seriously. The respected lawyer’s statements made on your behalf will be believed. A lawyer’s statements made on a client’s behalf are important. If they were not, why even consider making them?
  11. Honesty and Objectivity. Your criminal lawyer should not be your “Yes man.” A lawyer has a duty to be up front with you about your case. This means that your lawyer has to give you honest and objective advice about the probable outcome of your matter. Whether a client goes to trial or pleads guilty in a plea deal is the client’s decision. No one besides the client should make this decision. However, the lawyer has valuable experience, skill, scholarship, and know-how. Lawyers must give honest and objective advice to their client, so that the client’s decisions are fully informed.
  12. Strategy is Key. Without a strategy, you have nothing other than a misdirected waste of critical time and money. Without a strategy, you will meet failure head on. Your lawyer must confront your case both strategically and tactically. Strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that governs tactical execution. Tactics are the short-term, very specific things to gain an objective.
  13. Knowledge of Collateral Consequences. Are there going to collateral problems as a result of your case? What are the civil or immigration consequences for your job, education, and reputation? Criminal cases have wide-ranging consequences that can adversely affect the rest of your life. A criminal conviction can cause you to lose your job and may prevent you from getting another job in your chosen field. A criminal conviction can affect your ability to obtain the education you need and deserve. A conviction may cause you to lose your professional license. Indeed, if you are a teacher, realtor, nurse, physician, dentist, accountant, pharmacist, etc., you may be suspended or have your license revoked. And finally, if you are not a citizen, a criminal conviction may lead to your detention and deportation. The right lawyer can advise you in these matters.
  14. Who Do You Call? If you are looking for the right lawyer for your federal or state criminal, DUI, traffic, or juvenile case, contact Schwartz & Posnock to discuss your matter. Our attorneys have the experience, know-how, and expertise needed to work with you and favorably resolve your NJ criminal case. Visit our website at www.schwartzposnock.com to see our background, qualifications, and accomplishments. Then call us at 732-544-1460 or email us at info@schwartzposnock.com