Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 16, 2019

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A client of a criminal lawyer can sue the lawyer for attorney malpractice if the client can prove that the lawyer was negligent and that he would not have been found guilty, but for (except for) the negligent actions of the lawyer. This type of attorney malpractice lawsuit against a criminal lawyer is rarely successful.

The Negligence Standard for Attorney Malpractice

In a case involving any attorney malpractice, including a malpractice suit against a criminal lawyer, the deciding factor as to whether the attorney was negligent involves looking at the “standard of practice.” If you sue, the judge or jury would have to decide if the actions of the lawyer were of a lesser standard of professional quality than the actions that any reasonable lawyer would have taken. Expert witness testimony is often required to convince a jury as to what the standard of care should have been and how the lawyer in question fell below it. If the jury decides that any reasonable lawyer would have been more competent, then the criminal lawyer can be considered to have behaved below the standard of practice or standard of care, but this is not necessarily enough to win an attorney malpractice case.

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Proving Damages and Causation

It may be easy to prove your lawyer was negligent or that his actions fell below the standard of care, especially if he only spent a few minutes with you. However, negligence is not the only requirement for a lawsuit. You must also prove the negligence was the proximate or direct cause of some type of damages. In this case, that would mean proving that had your criminal lawyer been competent, you would not have gone to prison or faced criminal sanctions. Proving this can be difficult, since it is hard to prove that you would have a different outcome in court with a better criminal lawyer.

Getting Help

If you believe you were treated unfairly and that you have a case for malpractice against your criminal law attorney, you should strongly consider speaking with a lawyer who specializes in attorney malpractice suits.