Correcting Injustice
Casework & Document Resource to Assist Attorneys and Defendants
How-to Guidance for Criminal Defendants
It starts with hiring an attorney with the right experience...
When faced with the daunting task of dealing with the criminal justice system, it is incredibly important to choose
an attorney with the right type of experience for both initial trial and appeals work.  But how do you do that when you’re not a lawyer yourself?  Mr. Amodeo recommends every criminal defendant ask the important series of questions below when selecting an attorney, which are designed to test an attorney's experience and understanding.
40 questions an attorney should answer before you hire him/her:
As you review these questions below with your potential attorney, be sure to expand them to ask about key words and term definitions you aren’t familiar with.  This is also a good exercise to see if the attorney is patient and provides you with guidance and responses that are understandable.  This will go a long way to truly assisting you in your critical decision-making.  The questions themselves are derived from both Mr. Amodeo’s experience and 2255 hearings involving ineffective assistance of counsel. (See, e.g., United States v. Holley, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 154344 (S.D. Fla. 2016). The attorney on the hot seat here is Thomas Burns, a former 11th Circuit clerk.)

What portion of your practice involves federal criminal cases?
How long have you been in practice as a criminal defense attorney?
What is the number of federal criminal cases you have handled over the last ten years? The last five years?
If we do reach a satisfactory result at this stage, what options do I have?
How many successful direct appeals have you authored or argued?
How many trials have you had where the defendant was acquitted of all charges?
What is habeas corpus?
Have you been an active attorney in any habeas corpus action?
What are the procedures available for federal post-conviction relief?
What gives the federal court authority to prosecute and punish me?
How many federal appeals have you perfected (full briefing) for clients who pleaded guilty?
What is the importance of filing objections to the Presentence Investigation Report?
How are my financial penalties determined?     A. Restitution     B. Forfeiture     C. Fines     D. Costs
What benefit do I get for pleading guilty?
Are there any mandatory minimum sentences?
Do my charges involve consecutive sentences?
Can I get a bond before sentencing?
Will I get a chance to read all significant documents before they are filed?
When did my crime occur?
What are the charges against me?
What is my statutory penalty exposure?
Do you have a guideline-range estimate?
How often will we meet to discuss the facts of the case?
Who has the last word on what direction this case takes?
Does my prior history matter?
Will you speak with the witnesses I tell you about?
Will you investigate my mitigating evidence, should I need it? That is, will you actually interview the witnesses in person?
How long until we get to a verdict? Describe the stages.
How long until sentencing?

What are the stages between plea and verdict?
Will you review the government discovery?
Can you get me a copy of the government discovery?
Do we review the discovery jointly?
Can we request the government conduct some specific discovery?
What are the elements of my offense?
Are you familiar with these types of crimes?
How long are the typical sentences?

Are there any common defenses? Please describe.
Does the United States Attorney for the district enter into sentence negotiation as a part of the plea bargaining process?
In order that I do not trap myself, can you explain to me the concept of procedural default?
What is the difference between forfeiture and waiver?