Should I hire a criminal defense attorney who works in the county in which I was arrested? Probably, but not necessarily. Your first concern should be hiring the best criminal defense attorney you can afford to hire. As long as that attorney is licensed in the state of Florida, he or she should be your choice. The laws are the same regardless of which county has charged you. And a good criminal defense attorney should be able to be effective regardless of where his or her office is located.
However, if you have narrowed your search down to a criminal defense attorney who is local and one who is not and that is the only difference between them that you can see, you are probably better off hiring the one who is local. Why? Because that attorney is more likely to be familiar with the judge, the prosecutor and possibly even the police officer that arrested you. That defense attorney is also more likely to know how local jurors think and act.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Your lawyer isn’t going to win your case just because he knows the judge. But understanding the judge’s tendencies can be an important part of defending your freedom. For example, it would be good to know whether your judge is the kind of judge who is likely to be upset that you exercised your right to a trial and lost or if he is the kind of judge who would not hold that fact against you. Judges are not supposed to hold the exercise of a constitutional right against you, but that doesn’t mean they follow that rule. An attorney who is familiar with the judge will be able to advise you about that tendency.
I practice law primarily in Palm Beach County. But, that doesn’t stop me from going to other jurisdictions. When I do, I usually speak with local attorneys about the judge and prosecutor with whom I am dealing. I try to get a better understanding of how they will react to the strategy I am planning to use in the case. This is one way to overcome not being from the county in which I am practicing.
In other words, there are ways of getting around the fact that a criminal defense lawyer is not from the area. But, there is no way to get around the fact that the defense lawyer doesn’t know what he is doing or the fact that you are not comfortable with your lawyer. In the end, that is why the most important aspect of deciding on a lawyer is not location, but rather your ability to trust the lawyer you have hired. Your lawyer is going to help you make some pretty difficult and important decisions. If you don’t trust him, you have probably wasted your money.