How Much Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Cost?

Attorney cost varies depending on who represents you. There are three options for representation in criminal defense cases:

  • Self-representation
  • Public defender
  • Private attorney


Self-representation, commonly known as “in pro per,” has no attorney cost. However, you could have to pay court costs and discovery charges.

Public Defender

The public defender charges a minimal fee for representation, although the judge can chose to waive this fee. You could have to pay court costs and discovery charges.

Private Attorney Cost

Private attorney cost varies depending on the attorney and the facts of your case. Most attorneys require a retainer, but there are attorneys willing to do work hourly. Hourly fees vary, but typically criminal defense attorneys charge $250-750 per hour.

If you hire a private attorney, you will likely have to pay court costs and discovery charges.

What is a Retainer?

attorney cost

A retainer is a contract for a fixed amount of money in exchange for legal services. The retainer can be a lump sum that covers the entire case, or a down payment on the attorney’s hourly work*.

*If the retainer is a down payment on hourly work, you are entitled to refund of any unused funds when you case is concluded.

How much is a typical retainer?

Retainers typically range from $2,500 for misdemeanor cases to $15,000 for felony cases. Most attorneys charge extra to take the case to trial.

Can I negotiate the retainer amount?

Many attorneys are willing to negotiate the retainer amount and take monthly payments. You can also ask the attorney to divide the case into sections.

For example, you can set the attorney cost up to arraignment, with another payment due if the case proceeds past arraignment.

Whatever agreement you make with an attorney, be aware that you get what you pay for. If you want premium services, you should pay premium dollars.

attorney cost

Caution Against Self-Representation

Generally it is not a great idea to represent yourself. You likely do not have the same abilities of an experienced criminal defense attorney, including legal skills, experience with courtroom proceedings, and connections to district attorneys, judges, and court staff.

Do not represent yourself solely because you are worried that your attorney will not fight for you. Instead, take the time to hire an attorney that you trust and with whom you enjoy working.

attorney cost

Law Offices of Russell Brown

Criminal Defense Lawyer