When deciding what criminal defense attorney to retain, I typically recommend retaining a local attorney. Partly this is because an attorney’s fee is going to depend in large part upon how much time he expects to spend on a case, and he’s going to build travel time into the figure. That is, if a single court appearance is going to take half an hour, but requires over two hours of driving in order to accomplish this, the fee is going to go up. This is true for any attorney relationship, but more so in the context of criminal defense, simply because criminal defense ordinarily involves more mandatory court appearances than most other types of cases.
Moreover, local counsel is also important because there is great value to a defendant in having your attorney know local rules, formal and informal, and know the various players. If your attorney has never met the deputy prosecuting attorney handling your case, or has never appeared in front of the judge in your case, he’s less able to give you good advice.
For example, if a particular prosecutor makes a habit of overcharging–i.e. actually naming every possible crime for which he believes the court will find probable cause, regardless of whether he believes he can prove each crime beyond a reasonable doubt–you can usually expect to receive some reduction in the number or severity of charges. If your attorney knows this, he will be able to inform you of this, and give you some insight about what potential resolutions are available. If your attorney does not know this because he is from out of the area, you may end up with a worse outcome.
It would be also useful to know if a particular prosecutor is too busy or lazy to accommodate trials; regularly under-charges and then threatens to file holdbacks; is interested in pursuing every colorable bail jumping charge; is too inexperienced to properly calculate an offender score; is a poor legal writer, and is unable to persuade courts on motions or non-pattern jury instructions; is lax on discovery obligations; or is unethical enough to “accidentally” comment on defendant’s Fifth Amendment right in every jury trial.
I have appeared in various courts throughout Western Washington over the years. But most often, you’ll find me in Thurston County. I have working relationships with most of the prosecutors in the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. I have appeared in front of all of the elected and appointed judges throughout Thurston County, as well as most of the regular pro tems and retired judges. I regularly deal with the law enforcement agencies in Thurston County, and have interviewed and cross-examined many of the officers, deputies and troopers working for those agencies. I know Thurston County well, and can give you insight that an attorney driving down from Seattle or up from Vancouver frequently cannot.