Attorney Fees and Costs
The first worry in almost every criminal case is what will happen to the defendant now that criminal charges have been filed. Jail, prison, lose a job, will anyone accept my version of what happened as the truth. The second worry: how much will a lawyer charge and how can we afford him? The court will no doubt require that you hire a lawyer but you were not planning on any of this to happen. Lawyers are expensive and often they vary in how much they charge. Most lawyers charge by the hour and there is little way of knowing how many hours a particular case will take. In criminal defense, many lawyers charge an estimated or flat fee to cover pretrial preparation and most hearings except for jury trial. It may be possible to pay one half or less down as a retainer and pay the rest over a period of time. Usually the lawyer will want to be paid in full before the last hearing but in exceptional cases it may be possible to make monthly payments for twelve months or more, interest free. When you ask a lawyer for a free consultation, one of the main topics will be how much will legal services cost and how quickly do you need to pay off the balance due. Unfortunately, each case is different both in terms of how much legal fees will be and a payment plan.
It may be helpful, however, to read our standard fee agreement to understand some of the basic terms. Often some terms have to be changed to fit your situation but this standard agreement is a good place to start:
We the Defendant, and anyone cosigning on behalf of Defendant, enter into the following Fee Agreement with Aarons Law Firm PC by Stephen D Aarons:
Estimated Attorney Fees: $00,000.00
NM Gross Receipts Tax (01-123)(8.31250%): 000.00
Extra Expenses: + 0.00
Subtotal for Fees, Tax and Expenses: $00,000.00
Minus Retainer (down payment): –$0,000.00
Total Balance Due: $0,000.00
1. PAYMENTS: The retainer or down payment is not refundable and is immediately payable for you to represent defendant to the exclusion of other cases. The remainder will be paid by regular payments at least monthly. The Total Balance Due should be paid before the conclusion of the case. No interest will be charged so long as we make regular monthly payments and Total Balance Due is paid within one year.
2. LEGAL SERVICES: You will competently represent Defendant to the best of your ability in the following criminal proceedings (check all that are included): ( ) arrest and booking; ( ) first appearance in Magistrate or Municipal Court; ( ) pretrial hearings in Magistrate Court; ( ) status hearings; ( ) preliminary hearing; ( ) grand jury; ( ) arraignment in district court; ( ) pretrial hearings, ( ) docket call; ( ) jury selection; ( ) jury trial; ( ) plea hearing; ( ) sentence hearing; ( ) Notice of Appeal; ( ) Docketing Statement on appeal; ( ) appellate briefings. For those proceedings not covered, such as revocation of conditions of release, bench warrants, probation violations, MVD hearings, or retrial, you will charge at the rate of $300 per hour. You provide no legal advice regarding notice of tort claims, civil rights claims, statutes of limitation, or any other matter beyond the scope of work on this criminal case.
3. FEE: Instead of billing for hourly fees each month, we agree to the estimated fee plus gross receipts tax for you to represent defendant in this criminal case.
4. EARLY DISCHARGE: We may discharge or “fire” you at any time for any reason. For good cause, such as failure to timely pay fees and costs, you may withdraw from further representation or ask the court for permission to withdraw. In the event of early discharge, you will be paid at your hourly rate for word done until the court excuses you from further representation.
5. EXTRA EXPENSES: In addition to legal fees, we understand that we may have to pay for extra expenses such as private investigator fees, court costs, witness fees, transcription fees, polygraph fee, expert witness fees, travel expenses, and costs to prepare exhibits for trial. You will consult with us before undertaking extra expenses and we will pay Fifty Dollars for any bounced check.
6. RELEASE: At the conclusion of the case, we will promptly pick up any items in your file. You have permission to scan, shred and dispose of anything in your possession. We should consult with another lawyer before we sign a Release if we want to file a claim against you for poor legal work.
7. DISPUTES. Unless we can agree otherwise with you, all such controversies will be submitted to binding arbitration by an arbiter selected by the New Mexico Bar Association Fee Arbitration Program; 5121 Masthead NE; Albuquerque NM 87109; telephone (505) 797-6068. Santa Fé state district court is the exclusive venue for any lawsuit filed between the parties and the law of New Mexico applies to our dispute. If we fail to pay the entire balance due and you begin collection efforts in civil court, then we must pay all court costs, fees and interest at 2% per month (24% APR) compounded monthly from the date of signing.
8. COSIGNORS. If a Cosignor signs in the absence of Defendant, Cosignor has express authority from Defendant to sign this fee agreement. Each Cosignor personally guarantees payment of all sums due under the terms of this fee agreement. We are jointly and severally liable for the entire sum due.
9. MODIFICATIONS. The previous page and this page represent the entire agreement of the parties unless we later modify our fee agreement and then only in writing and signed by the parties. We understood its terms before signing. If any portion of this Fee Agreement is declared void, the remainder shall remain in full force.
10. SIGNED on DATE in Santa Fé, New Mexico, by:
Stephen D Aarons
Aarons Law Firm PC
311 Montezuma Ave
Santa Fé NM 87501-3603
(505) 984-1100; (fax) 984-1110