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Kush Arora on Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Kush Arora.

What should someone look for in a criminal defense attorney?

Kush Arora: They should always look for somebody that they are comfortable with, as they are going to be in a relationship with the criminal defense attorney they hired for as long as a year. If the individual is charged with a serious felony, the relationship could last much longer. Secondly, I advise that someone seeking a criminal defense attorney should find an attorney that they feel is communicative and accessible. Whenever a question arises, an attorney who is accessible should be able to respond to any concerns raised by the client they represent immediately.

Thirdly, in looking for an attorney one should work with someone who has handled cases similar to the case in question and in the jurisdiction in question. Having an attorney who knows the prosecutors well and who has a good rapport with the judges can ultimately help the client by providing insight into how a court system or a prosecutor’s office might respond to a particular kind of charge or a particular kind of defense. You have to do your homework on an attorney. With the Internet and review sites, there is a lot of information out there on your attorney. There are reviews from clients and maybe other professionals in the community who are able to identify what the attorney’s strong points are and, if there are weaknesses, then what their weak points are. You should do your research and make sure you’re comfortable. After all, this person is going to be handling a pretty important event in your life. A huge red flag is if you don’t see any information about them at all when you’re doing your research. You don’t want somebody who doesn’t have a reputation of any kind, because that may mean that you are walking into a situation blind, not knowing what you’re getting, and this certainly is not time for uncertainty.

If you’re charged with a criminal offense in Maryland, why is it important to consult with a Maryland criminal defense attorney, instead of an attorney from another jurisdiction?

Kush Arora: You certainly don’t want to consult with an attorney from a different jurisdiction. The rules of law and evidence, while they may be identical from county to county, or state to state, can vary based on how they are interpreted. When you pick an attorney, you want to pick one from this state, even if you knew somebody who worked out of Virginia that was licensed in Maryland but didn’t really practice there very often. You put yourself at a disadvantage working with somebody in that capacity, and the reason is what I call the “X factor.” It’s something that’s unwritten, that happens in a particular courthouse, and it’s a relationship that an attorney has with the judges or with the prosecutor’s office. It makes a tremendous difference when somebody who’s been in a particular court system, working there on a regular basis, for a number of years, is the one who is advising you on what is going on with your case, as well as how the State’s Attorney’s office or a particular judge may respond to the defenses that you plan to present, the evidence that’s been brought against you, or the police officers that were involved in your arrest. Somebody from another jurisdiction wouldn’t necessarily be able to offer that, and you put yourself at a disadvantage by going into the courtroom without knowing about those intangibles and how they may impact the defense of your case.

Why should someone speak to an attorney as soon as possible?

To answer the other part of the question, a lot of people don’t realize that there are time limits on particular cases within which a defense attorney sometimes needs to file his or her appearance line and request for discovery. Usually, when that happens, the State’s Attorney’s Office is put on notice that they need to provide particular pieces of information within a specified amount of time. Sometimes, when an attorney is not in a case soon enough, some of those deadlines have elapsed and some issues that might be brought up to assist the person in the defense of their case might be waived, because an attorney was not brought into the case soon enough. Talking to an attorney immediately after you are charged is important because when you are charged, there are often a number of things that you can do to be proactive, to assist your attorney in not only a defense, but mitigation for sentencing if the case goes that far. For example, when a client is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Maryland, one of the first things that I tell them to do is enroll themselves in an alcohol education program. With an alcohol education program under a person’s belt, even if they are found guilty of a particular offense for DUI or DWI in Maryland, a judge, hearing that somebody was proactive and immediately got themselves enrolled in a program, would see them in a much more favorable light than somebody who had not or had perhaps waited until the last minute to get enrolled. The same goes for somebody who might have been charged with a domestic violence offense. Getting them into family counseling, perhaps anger management, would not only be advantageous when talking about the case with the judge, but might be something that a prosecutor would be interested in knowing if they were on the fence about prosecuting the case, dismissing the case, or perhaps reducing the charge to something less serious.