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Attorney Fees Attorney Fees - Greenwood Law

How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost in North Carolina?


Private lawyers charge for legal work, including when defending you from criminal charges. There is no standard fee for criminal defense attorneys. Lawyers charge different fees depending on many factors. A lawyer might even charge a different rate depending on the complexity of the case or the amount of work involved.

Fees Charged by North Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyers

Criminal defense attorneys typically charge either a flat or hourly fee. A flat fee represents a fixed amount that you pay for your entire case. Lawyers charge fixed fees for cases that require a predictable and standard amount of work. For instance, a lawyer might charge a flat fee to handle a traffic ticket.

An hourly fee is an amount that lawyers charge for the time spent on your case. Suppose that a lawyer charges an hourly fee of $250 per hour. Your total legal bill equals the number of hours spent on your case multiplied by $250. Many lawyers track their time in six-minute increments, which equals 0.1 hours. A bill for 2.3 hours means the lawyer spent two hours and 18 minutes on your case.

North Carolina’s Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit lawyers from charging a contingency fee for representing defendants in criminal cases. This rule prevents North Carolina criminal defense lawyers from offering a fee arrangement where you only pay upon an acquittal.

Regardless of the type of fee charged, most lawyers will also charge clients for litigation costs. Litigation fees include money paid out-of-pocket by the lawyer to keep your case moving forward. Some litigation costs you might pay in your case include:

  • Private investigator fees
  • Expert witness costs
  • Laboratory testing fees

These costs often arise when prosecutors file charges built on forensic evidence, such as homicides and computer, financial, and sex crimes.

Factors That Affect Fees

North Carolina’s rules restrict lawyers from charging excessive fees. In determining the reasonableness of fees, the rules look at factors such as the following:

  • Lawyer’s experience, reputation, skills, and abilities
  • Time and work required for the case
  • Novelty or difficulty of the legal or factual issues
  • Customary fees charged in that jurisdiction for similar cases
  • Time limitations on the lawyer’s work
  • Chance that the case requires so much work the lawyer must refuse other cases

If a client disputes the fees charged by a lawyer, the North Carolina State Bar has a fee dispute resolution program. Lawyers can also use the program when a client refuses to pay a bill.

What Your Fee Typically Covers

Every lawyer has different billing practices. Before hiring one, then, you should discuss what your fee includes. Some services for which your lawyer may charge include the following:

  • Having meetings, phone calls, and emails with your lawyer
  • Negotiating with prosecutors
  • Reviewing evidence and expert witness reports
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Preparing for trial
  • Presenting evidence to a jury

In some cases, attorneys may need to quote separately for motions, hearings, and trial fees, especially when they are complex.

Also, discuss whether your lawyer will handle any post-trial work. For example, some criminal defense lawyers do not handle appeals after a conviction. Instead, you may need to see a lawyer who focuses on appeal work.

Learn More About Criminal Defense Fees

Fee arrangements can vary widely. As you consult criminal defense attorneys about your case, raise the issue of fees so you know how much you will pay for your defense.

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