How much does a defense attorney cost?

Average cost in 20149: $1,810 See National


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The average cost for a criminal defense lawyer is $1,810. You are likely to spend between $785 and $4,170 total. Exact price may vary depending on your area and project details.

Updated May 1st, 2017

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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.

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Recent reviews

Tampa Criminal Defense and DUI Defense Pallegar Law, P.A.

Mr. Pallegar has been very helpful, has laid out a strategy to represent my case. He took the time to listen to me, patiently answering all my questions, repeatedly. With his representation I am confident that there will be a positive outcome to my case. Other attorneys wanted to go straight to trial, for a much higher fee. The fees were not the deciding factor, I have the means to afford any representation, the 'chemistry' was not there. The ability Mr. Palleger demonstrated his expertise, and interpersonal skills in working with me when I was highly agitated. Explaining step by step, what to expect and his strategy to maneuver the legal gauntlet. His ability to communicate was key in my decision. Trial is rolling the dice, I made a "Big Fat Mistake", which I realized shortly after my release. I just want to make things right, take my licks, and move on with my very busy life.

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.

Matt Hayes Law PLC

I interviewed many attorneys for my case, but all of them seemed to only be interested in how I would be paying them. I didn't feel any of the other attorneys even had an interest in getting on the phone with me unless I feigned interest in hiring them. Matt was the only attorney who contacted me directly, took the time to go over details of my case and overall put me immediately at ease. He gave me a number where I could, and have- Texted or called day or night, and Matt always responds immediately. Matt was not the least expensive attorney I could have hired, and he wasn't the most expensive...But his attention to detail, his knowledge in the criminal defense world is something that is inherently Matt. If he wanted to, he could easily demand a blank check fee schedule, as he is worth every penny, but instead he offers a flat rate fee, with no surprises or hidden costs. I can now say in the two months he has been my attorney, I feel safe and protected from possible prosecution. I am confident Matt will see me safely thru this dark side of my life. I will find out tomorrow how this journey will proceed, but I know with Matt standing beside me I am prepared to stand up and fight for myself, and not be strong armed into a plea deal or worse just because I have previous criminal history. Do yourself a favor, call and speak with Matt right away! He will not disappoint. By the way, Matt is not only my attorney, I now call him a friend. This is the attorney you want!