In sex assault cases, attorney’s fees vary wildly and so do potential costs and expenses depending on the case. While some attorneys charge a flat fee for the entire case, others may charge hourly, or break the case down phase by phase, charging for each individual phase. Everything is at stake when someone is charged with a serious crime, so it is important to take payment plan into consideration when deciding on a criminal defense attorney.
Charging an hourly rate is common in the practice of law, especially for civil attorneys. In criminal cases hourly rates are not as prominent because once a criminal defense attorney enters the case, he needs the judge’s permission to exit the case. Therefore, an attorney who takes a case on an hourly basis may be taking a risk that he gets stuck in the case even if the client fails to pay as agreed. Often, serious criminal cases such as sex assault go on for 6 months to 2 years before they are resolved.
On the other hand, if the case is very long and complex an hourly fee may be the best way to go because an attorney may not be able to accurately gage the length or complexity of the case at the onset when he quotes the client in what he believes will be the ultimate cost. The advantage to the client for the hourly fee is that if the matter is resolved quickly, the client only pays for the amount of time the attorneys spent on the case. The advantage to the attorney is that the client has agreed to pay for all the time the attorney spends on the case.
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The Flat Fee
Some criminal defense attorneys will take cases on flat fees. This is similar to a contract or bidding a job. The attorney says I will work for a specific amount and my fees will not go over that amount. For some clients this is advantageous because at a time when they are charged with a serious crime they want some type of certainty. A certainty in fees can be a great relief. The person who is charged with a serious crime often wants to ask to borrow money once and knowing there is only one flat fee up front can be very advantageous to the client.
Payment by phase
Some attorneys will charge flat fees for each phase in the case. For example, the attorney may break the case down into 2 or more phases, the most common is pretrial and trial phase. The logic is that not all cases go to trial and the client will pay extra if he or she wants to go to trial. The downside is that sometimes this type of fee agreement will discourage a client to go to trial when trial is the only option to get the outcome the client desires.
A person charged with a felony in the state of Nebraska has other important opportunities and expenses, that they can use to try and get the optimal result. These are expenses in addition to an attorney’s fees.
- Depositions – In Nebraska felony cases such as sex assault cases, the defendant can take depositions of witnesses. This means the defendant can get sworn testimony under oath prior to trial. Often depositions are paramount to mounting a good defense as they provide the accused with information about the case and lock in witness testimony prior to trial.
- Investigators – When police investigate a case, they are looking to make an arrest under no presumption of innocence. A private investigator will approach the investigation from a completely different angle and may uncover evidence that could be favorable to a defendant that law enforcement normally would not pursue.
- Expert witnesses – The prosecutor may call a sex assault nurse examiner (SANE nurse) as a witness. Often the SANE nurse will testify in a manner that is friendly to the prosecution. While some SANE nurses are very experienced, some are not. The defendant has the right to call his own expert witness such as a SANE nurse, DNA expert, child psychologist or other person with specialized knowledge. Experts are genuinely expensive but, in most cases, worth it.
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So what’s all this going to cost?
If you look at costs from around the United States, sex assault cases defended can cost anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more. While those costs may seem ridiculous, there is quite a bit at stake. A person accused of 1st degree sex assault faces not only felony conviction, but lifetime sex offender registry and what could be decades in prison. For many people, when everything is on the line, cost is secondary. Anyone charged with a serious crime faces the reality of getting finances in order.
If you or a loved one were charged with sex assault, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Berry Law.