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Can You Sue a Criminal Defense Attorney?

While it’s possible to sue your criminal defense attorney if you can prove that they engaged in legal malpractice or did not do their best to assist you, it’s usually difficult to win these cases. 

How to Sue a Criminal Defense Attorney

Before you file a lawsuit against your attorney, you need to get a second opinion about your situation. To do this, it’s best to search for the most reputable and reliable attorneys in your local area and consult with them. 


For example, for those in South Carolina, a Columbia criminal defense lawyer from Strom Law can assist you. You want to get in touch with someone who has already dealt with a case filed against another attorney. Keep in mind, though, that many attorneys are leery about going after others in their profession.


Once you find a new criminal defense attorney, explain your situation to them. Let them know about your concerns, and they’ll guide you about the next steps.


Here’s what the process looks like:

Step 1: Determine Your Grounds for Suing Your Attorney

Your new attorney will help you determine an appropriate claim against your previous criminal defense attorney. You can sue them for:


  • Legal malpractice
  • Breach of contract
  • Fraud
  • Misrepresentation

Step 2: Gather Evidence

Collect all relevant documents and evidence that support your claim. This might include communication records, fee agreements, court transcripts, emails, and any other materials that demonstrate the attorney’s negligence or misconduct.

Step 3: Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Before you head to court, explore alternative dispute resolution methods (such as mediation or arbitration). Some jurisdictions may require ADR before litigation.

Step 4: Check the Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the time limit in which you must file a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you might not be eligible to file a case. So, be sure to check what rules apply in your area.

Step 5: Draft a Complaint

Next, your new attorney will draft a formal complaint outlining the allegations against the criminal defense attorney. In this complaint, describe the details of your claims along with the damages you suffered.

Step 6: File the Lawsuit

File the complaint with the appropriate court. Pay the required filing fees and ensure you serve a copy of the complaint to the defendant (your former defense attorney). 


The accused lawyer will file an answer after the lawsuit notice is served to them.

Step 7: Discovery

Moving forward, both parties will engage in the discovery process to exchange information, evidence, and witness statements. This may involve interrogatories (written questions), depositions (oral testimonies under oath), and document requests.

Step 8: Expert Witnesses

If your case requires complex legal or technical analysis, your attorney may hire expert witnesses who can testify about the standard of care expected from defense attorneys and how the defendant’s actions deviated from that standard.

Step 9: Settlement Negotiations

Throughout the process, there may be opportunities for settlement negotiations. You and your previous lawyer can explore potential resolutions to avoid a trial. However, settlement discussions are voluntary and may not result in an agreement.

Step 10: Trial and Verdict

If no settlement is reached, the case will proceed to the trial stage. Your case will be presented in court before a judge and possibly a jury. Both sides will present evidence and make legal arguments. 


After hearing both sides, the jury will reach a verdict. If they consider your claim legitimate, they will specify the amount your previous lawyer has to pay you (i.e., damages).

Step 11: Appeals 

If either party is dissatisfied with the verdict, they have the option to appeal the decision to a higher court. The appeals process involves reviewing the legal issues rather than retrying the case.

Final Thoughts

Your new attorney may add or eliminate any steps from this process, depending on the details of your case. In the end, you will have to trust their advice; for this reason, we highly recommend doing extensive research when looking for a reputable attorney! 


Wondering who pays criminal defense lawyers? Check out our latest post!



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