Child Pornography: What You Should Look For When Retaining An Attorney For Child Abuse Cases?
Interviewer: When someone is seeking out the assistance of an attorney, what is a sign that would help them decide that that particular attorney is going to be the individual for them to work with? At the same time, what is a red flag?
Paul Cramm: Question one: “Have you ever handled a child pornography case in state or federal court before?” If the lawyer can’t answer to both, that’s a red flag; look for another lawyer.
Question two: “Who do you use for defense forensic examination of my equipment?” If the lawyer doesn’t have an answer to that question, that means he doesn’t know how important it is to have independent defense forensic examination of the computer, and he doesn’t know who to go to for that. That’s a big red flag.
Make sure they can give you the name of the forensic examiner that’s going to be conducting their investigation of the machine immediately. Guardian Digital Forensic certainly is not the only one in the business. There are very good independent forensic examiners available. I happen to know and have good rapport with the examiners from Guardian, but make sure that that’s an issue that the lawyer is already familiar with and can already tell you.
A good question is, “May I see or examine written forensic analysis reports that your examiner has done in prior cases?” Redacted, of course. “May I look at or see evidentiary motions that you have filed in previous cases?” I think that’s the place to start. You want a lawyer who can say, “Yes, I’ve done this before in state and federal court. Here is what I used to do forensic examination. I’ve taken out the client’s name, but here’s an 80-page single-spaced report that this examiner did with this client’s equipment.”
You have a feel for thoroughness that this person will apply to examination of the evidence in your case. “Here are copies of the motions I’ve filed on evidentiary issues at state or federal level.” If you have someone who can do those things for you, and answer those questions, you’re talking to a good lawyer.
Interviewer: This is one of those cases where you do definitely get what you pay for when it comes to an attorney.
Paul Cramm: I think, by and large, yes. I think that no lawyer that has really done this before would quote a very low, or cheap, or affordable fee. No one’s going to charge a cheap fee for this, knowing how much difficult and technically challenging the work is going to be. Anyone who quotes an unusually low fee compared to what other lawyers may have quoted – that’s a red flag. I also think that it’s very unlikely that lawyers who handle these kinds of cases, and put themselves into these types of cases, facing these kinds of stakes, are going to charge an appropriately substantial fee for a case like this, but then simply not do the work.
There is far too much professional ethical exposure to charge commensurately large fees for serious work, and then not do the work. I think that on both ends of the spectrum, someone who’s really cheap doesn’t know what they’re doing, and someone who knows what they’re doing probably values their professional reputation enough that they’re not going to jump into a case and just do the requisite work. I think that this is the type of situation where, yes, in all likelihood it’s fair to say that you are going to get what you pay for in hiring defense counsel for this type of case.
Interviewer: Have there been any cases where someone was hesitant to hire a lawyer in case like this?
Paul Cramm: I don’t think so. I think any time someone realizes that they’re under investigation, particularly for this type of offense, the only thing that person wants is a strong, experienced, aggressive lawyer in their corner. I can’t imagine anyone feeling more comfortable trying to go alone. I think there are a lot of folks that simply do not have access to the resources necessary to hire a lawyer and pay for independent forensic examination, so they are going to have request appointed counsel in these cases. I think most folks facing this kind of charge absolutely want someone seasoned and experienced on their side.
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