Cost of Defending Federal Criminal Cases

How much does a federal defense attorney cost?

The United States Attorney’s Office has far more money and resources than those of state prosecutors. The United States Attorney’s Office works with agencies like the FBI, DEA, IRS, Customs, ICE, Border Patrol, SEC, and numerous other government agencies. The Constitution requires that the government provide attorneys for those who cannot afford them. In the federal system, this is the Federal Defender’s Office. If a court believes you can pay for your own attorney, you will need to hire and be represented by a “retained” or privately paid attorney.

Private attorneys are paid for by the client, and Federal criminal practitioners can be very expensive.

Federal criminal charges can be extremely complex, and penalties in federal court are often much greater than that of a state court. This means the amount of work to be done to successfully defend someone in these cases can be massive. Under a flat fee agreement, a simple federal felony charge for someone without any criminal record may cost as little as $10,000 on up to $25,000 depending on the law firm and assuming you settle your case before trial. A serious case for someone with a significant criminal history can cost from anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000. Attorney’s fees can vary greatly and depending on your specific case, so don’t hesitate to get a free consultation before settling on a less expensive or free attorney.

None of this is set in stone and unfortunately, money is the only way you can fight the US government on somewhat equal terms. Those that can afford to, will often spend millions of dollars to fight criminal cases. If you are looking at a 10 or 20-year maximum sentence, you will find it hard to put a dollar valuation on your freedom, and most of our client’s do whatever possible to get the money for as robust and aggressive defense as is possible.

Cost of Defending Federal Criminal Cases

Hourly vs. Flat Fees

Hourly vs. Flat Fees​

In Southern California, attorney’s fees are often paid hourly and can average anywhere from $300-$1,300 and hour depending on how busy the attorney is and if you are hiring a small or large firm. Federal criminal cases can last years

To make private fees affordable, many lawyers will accept flat fee payment agreements. Flat fee structures allow you to pay a one-time fee to cover the cost of the typical criminal case. If you believe you are going to be one of the 3% in federal court that goes to trial-at a minimum, double the money estimates in this article. A flat fee gives you the security of knowing exactly what your attorney will cost.

Why pay for a criminal defense attorney?

One consistent belief defendant’s share is that you can’t get a quality defense from a public defender. Public defenders can be very good attorneys, yet they have limited resources Their cases loads can be 3 or 4 times the size of a private attorney. Ultimately it comes down to your financial situation and if you think you can live with a poor result like a long prison sentence.

Multiple studies have found that those with retained counsel obtain better results in criminal cases (Gitelman 1971 & Hoffman et al. 2005). That means that those that pay for their own attorneys tend to get better results. They plead guilty less often, receive more dismissals or suspended sentences, they receive lighter sentences when found guilty, and they received probation more frequently than defendants with a public defender.

Retained attorneys can act faster, often before a case is even filed. It can take days or weeks before you are assigned a specific public attorney. If you have a retained attorney, you will receive information more often, and you should find it much easier to reach someone when you have to have your own questions.

Paying for a Federal Defense Attorney

Attorney’s working smaller state criminal cases might take a small down payment with your promise to pay in the future. No or few competent federal criminal defense attorneys will take less than 50% down on a case before they make an appearance in court as your representative, and then they will need to be assured you can afford to pay the balance.

Family and friends are a common source of funding for criminal defendants, and just one person with good credit and income can get a personal loan funded within 24 hours in an emergency. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your attorney either-negotiation is something we understand and making a defense affordable is an important aspect of what we do so make sure that you pick up the phone and call the BDN for a  free consultation.

Cost of Defending Federal Criminal Cases


Attorneys at the Border Defense Network are determined to help those in need of Federal Crimes representation. Fill out the form below, and we will be in touch.

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