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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found “not guilty” of all charges.


Finding The Right Criminal Defense Attorney

Finding The Right Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal defense attorneys are specialist legal resources. You wouldn’t visit a cardiologist to treat an ear infection, and you wouldn’t contact a medical malpractice lawyer with tax issues. This post addresses how to find the right New Jersey criminal defense attorney for your case.

After you narrow down the list of available criminal defense lawyers in your area, the question is—how do you choose the right criminal defense lawyer? Consider these items before selecting a criminal defense attorney:

If you’ve already been charged with a crime or you’ve been informed that you’re being investigated for a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will aggressively fight for you.

Begin the process of narrowing prospective criminal defense attorneys by:

  • Getting referrals from family and friends (if you’re comfortable discussing your case with them)
  • Contacting a non-criminal defense lawyer to request referrals

Another practicing attorney in your area is a potentially valuable resource. After you receive a short list of criminal defense attorneys, ask your contact if 1) the attorney is accessible and organized and 2) if he or she arrives on time for meetings.

If you’d rather not discuss your personal matters with an acquaintance, it’s possible to find attorneys in your area through the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and the Association of Federal Defense Attorneys. You can also find information about criminal defense attorneys on legal referral sites, such as LawHelp, Avvo, or FindLaw.

After you have three or four criminal defense attorneys on your short list, contact the attorney to schedule an initial case evaluation. Schedule face-to-face meetings. Ask how many cases he or she has handled that’s similar to your own. You want a criminal defense attorney who’s personally acquainted with procedures, prosecutors, and trial judges in New Jersey.

If you’re already in custody, you might not be able to arrange personal meetings with prospective criminal defense lawyers. In that case, contact attorneys by telephone or Skype to discuss your case.

During an initial case consultation, the lawyer will provide context to the charges, what the prosecutor must prove to support a guilty verdict, pretrial issues, plea bargains, or possible defenses.

Listen to your intuition when interviewing criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey. Realize that the attorney can’t promise a specific case outcome.

Ask the prospective New Jersey criminal defense attorney about costs. Generally speaking, the costs charged to handle your case will be based on its complexity. A criminal defense attorney may charge:

  • A flat fee for services paid in advance
  • An hourly fee for services
  • A hybrid of these two plans

A criminal defense attorney in New Jersey is unlikely to offer a contingency fee arrangement. Since the attorney can’t promise a certain result, he or she can’t offer a contingency fee arrangement in your criminal defense case.

Although the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment provides the right to represent yourself in a criminal trial proceeding, you must follow the law and court’s rules. Know the stakes are high—you must understand New Jersey criminal law. If you don’t, representing yourself in a criminal trial isn’t a do-it-yourself task.

The relationship you build with a criminal defense attorney is built on trust. Choose a criminal defense lawyer in New Jersey that you’re comfortable with. To learn more about the role of a criminal defense attorney in your New Jersey criminal case, contact The Law Offices of John W. Tumelty by filling out our convenient online contact form, or you may call us at 609.385.4010. Mr. Tumelty is a Certified Criminal Trial Attorney in New Jersey.


The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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South Jersey criminal defense lawyer John W. Tumelty is conveniently located in Atlantic City, NJ. He serves clients in Atlantic, Ocean, Gloucester and Cape May counties and the Jersey Shore, including: Absecon, Atlantic City, Avalon, Brigantine, Buena, Cape May, Egg Harbor City, Egg Harbor Township, Estell Manor, Folsom, Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Hammonton, Linwood, Longport, Margate, Mullica Township, Northfield, Pleasantville, Port Republic, Somers Point, Ventnor,  and Waymouth.