Thumbtack Logo

How much does a defense attorney cost?

Average cost in 20149: $1,615 See National


low cost


avg cost


high cost

The average cost for a criminal defense lawyer is $1,615. You are likely to spend between $690 and $3,780 total. Exact price may vary depending on your area and project details.

Updated August 1st, 2017

Next Step: Find out exactly how much your project will cost.

Criminal defense attorneys represent clients charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses, such as possession of drugs, theft or robbery, probation or parole offense, physical or aggravated assault, or sexual assault. Many lawyers can attend court dates within a matter of days or in the upcoming months. Several factors affect the cost of hiring a defense attorney.

Complexity of case

The complexity and seriousness of the case are the two main factors that affect the cost, says Eric Lim, Attorney at Law in Austin, Texas. Defense attorneys appear in court on behalf of the client, negotiate with the prosecutor and review evidence, among other tasks. The more court appearances, negotiation and review required, the more hours the attorney will invest in the case and the higher the fee to the client.

Hourly rate

Some lawyers charge an hourly rate for their services. An hourly rate may be beneficial to clients if the case is cut and dried. But when a case is more complicated and takes more time, the cost can increase quickly. Often when charging by the hour, defense attorneys request a retainer as a deposit that they then work against. For example, if an attorney has a $200 hourly rate, he or she may require a 10-hour retainer of $2,000.

Flat rate

Many lawyers have flat rates for different types of cases. The Law Offices of Albert L. Boasberg in Daly City, California, charges a flat fee so that clients know the total cost upfront. Also, with a flat rate, the attorney does not have to keep detailed notes on every phone call, e-mail, trip to the law library, witness interview, motion, etc. Flat rates vary depending on the nature of the case. For example, the cost for the Law Offices of Albert L. Boasberg to defend a felony greatly depends on the amount of investigation and the number of court appearances required. The law office charges a set rate of $2,500 for most misdemeanors, which are often DUIs.

Criminal history

The criminal history of the client affects the total cost for defense attorney services. The more previous legal trouble clients have had, typically the more preparation, negotiation and representation required by the lawyer. The examples below from Eric Lim, Attorney at Law show how costs can vary for three common criminal defense cases, depending on the severity of crime and criminal history:

  • Defense for misdemeanor possession of marijuana: $750–$2,000—costs vary depending on the client’s criminal history and amount of marijuana in possession.

  • Defense for possession of a controlled substance: $3,000–$10,000—costs vary depending on the client’s criminal history and the amount of the controlled substance.

  • Defense for theft: $750–$10,000—costs vary depending on the client’s criminal history and the amount of theft.


A firm or lawyer’s reputation affects the cost for services. Lawyers with degrees from prestigious law schools, those with extensive experience in the field and those with a reputation for winning high-profile cases may have higher rates than attorneys who are just starting out.


Where the attorney works affects the cost of services. Different parts of the country have higher or lower hourly fees and flat rates, depending on the cost of living and competition in the area.

Ready to hire a criminal defense lawyer?

Get free custom quotes from qualified criminal defense lawyers in your area.

Get Quotes

Cost calculator

Answer a few key questions to get a price estimate in your area.

{[{ pricing.estimation }]}

{[{ pricing.estimationDescription }]}

Something went wrong. Give it another try.

Try again

Recent reviews

Alan E. Spears, Esq.

He is a great defense criminal attorney, he knows what he is doing representing you on critical criminal laws dealing with your case.

Law Offices of Michael I. Gowdey, Ltd.

Immediately upon contacting Mr Gowdey's office, my son and I were treated with kind, uplifting respect. The staff went out of their way to answer our questions, even though we were frazzled with fear about our situation. Mr Gowdey made himself immediately available, personally,even though his schedule was full. My son and I were given an appointment on the very same day we contacted this office,calming our fear and offering us immediate legal protection. We were given very clear information, in a way we could understand it. Mr Gowdey and his staff are exceptional- very much worth the humble cost of their services. As a single working parent, finding my son in an unexpected situation, Mr Gowdey and his office are affordable to the average family. We are no longer afraid about our situation. Thank you, Mr Gowdey and staff. Hopefully, we won't need you again, but, I'm recommending you to all of my friends and family if they do.

The Law Office of Silvia Lopez

Sylvia represented my son's misdemeanor case. She was fair, honest and made sure we understood what was going to happen at he proceedings. I did some prelim research and had a good idea the position we were in and the options we would have. Other lawyers that responded to me sounded as if they were trying to scare us with the possibility of more severe results and were going to charge higher for it. I trusted Sylvia right from the beginning because she explained reality and charged fairly. She also followed thru and our outcome at court was exactly what we expected. Hopefully we are never in the position to need her services again but if we are, I would definitely hire her!