When you’re charged with a crime, you have a right to have an attorney, on your side. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you will have the option to get a public defender. If the court determines that you make too much to qualify for a public defender, you either have to pay for your attorney yourself or represent yourself. If you’re thinking that a lawyer might be too expensive, here are some things you might want to consider.

What Do You Have to Lose?

Serious criminal charges have long-term consequences. Before you decide to represent yourself, think about what you are facing. How long could you potentially go to jail if you lose? What about fines and fees? Are you prepared to put your future in your own hands? A criminal defense attorney will guide you through the process while protecting your rights. Criminal court procedures are complex.

What Does Your Attorney Do For You?

Your attorney doesn’t just stand up before the judge and try to prove you innocent. Your attorney hires expert witnesses and investigators to find evidence that demonstrates you shouldn’t be found guilty of the crime. Your attorney negotiates with the prosecutor to find a better outcome for your case. Good criminal attorneys know procedures and the other parties to help you through the process. If you’ve been charged with DUI, you want to know how the judge regularly decides punishments or how fierce the district attorney gets in pushing for serious consequences.

How Much Will It Cost?

Most criminal attorneys charge by the hour, which means there are lots of determining factors to figure out how much your case will cost. If you go to trial, your case will cost much more. A more serious offense may take more time to work through, thus increasing the time the lawyer spends on your case. If you have many levels of legal complexity, your case could cost more. Your attorney will also charge you for time that law clerks and paralegals spend on your case. If you need experts or investigators, those costs will increase your fee.

The better question to ask might be, “can I afford not to hire an attorney?” Your attorney’s fees may seem steep, but look at it against going to prison for 1, 5 or even 25 years. Even if you’re thinking about pleading guilty, it might be a good idea to at least talk to a criminal defense lawyer who can assess your situation and let you know whether you have any other options.