Short answer is that the obligation to pay the fines never goes away. The long answer is that not all of the processes that the court usually uses to get people to pay fines (i.e. contempt and revocation of probation) may be available to the court. The court cannot likely revoke your probation if it is outside the normal term of probation for a misdemeanor, which is 2 years, or 5 years for a felony, but this term can be extended in order to complete restitution AKA payments to the victim. There is nothing in the statute, KRS 533.020 authorizing extension of probation for payment of fines. Therefore, this means the court could not likely impose your original sentence if it is outside 2 years for a misdemeanor conviction or 5 years for a felony conviction.
However, the court can still use its contempt powers to make you pay the fine but there is process that goes along with that. Simply put, if you are ordered by the court to pay fines and you don’t then you are disobeying the court’s order. Judges expect their orders to be obeyed. If the orders are not obeyed then the judge can impose punishments up to and including jail time. However, before imposing those punishments for financial related obligations, the court must make a specific finding of fact upon his or her ability to pay and any further contempt proceedings should be limited to those amounts which the person is found to be able to pay. Also, if jail time is a possibility then the person has a right to appointed counsel AKA a public defender.
The first case I received a Not Guilty verdict on, a friend congratulated me by saying “Congratulations Counselor!” It was an exciting and very awesome time. The dictionary defines “counselor” as follows:
a person trained to give guidance on personal, social, or psychological problems:
“a marriage counselor”
a person who supervises children at a camp.
a trial lawyer.
A trial lawyer more accurately describes me and what I do. There are many lawyers who devote their practice to transactional work. There are many lawyers who describe themselves as litigators but do not actually try cases. As a trial lawyer, I try cases. Please refer to my Attorney page to see the type of cases that I have tried and the results. When you meet with a lawyer, you should be asking that lawyer whether he or she has tried cases.
Everyone hates unexpected expenses, especially when it comes to legal matters. It has been my experience that clients do not care whether a case takes a few hours or a few days, they just want their lawyer to do a good job and handle their case appropriately. First, I will explain what traditional flat fee billing looks like. Then, I will explain what traditional hourly billing looks like. Then, I will explain the strengths and weaknesses of each and why my modified flat fee billing approach gives the client the best of both worlds.
Traditional Flat Fee Billing
A traditional flat fee billing approach means that the lawyer quotes a price to the client to handle their entire legal matter no matter how long the case takes. The client accepts this arrangement, pays the lawyer, and the lawyer works the case to completion.
Traditional Hourly Billing
A traditional hourly billing approach means that the lawyer tells the client what his or her hourly rate is. The lawyer then asks the client to pay for what is usually referred to as a “retainer” at the beginning of the representation. The lawyer will bill towards the retainer at the hourly rate until the funds are exhausted or the case is resolved. If the funds are gone before the case is resolved, then the client must pay an additional retainer in order to keep the lawyer on the case. If the matter resolves before the funds are exhausted, then the client receives a partial refund of their retainer.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Each
The first strength of Traditional Flat Fee Billing is that it provides certainty to the client that they will be represented on the case until the matter is resolved. It also provides a fixed dollar amount which is attached to the representation. This means since the lawyer agreed to a flat fee for the whole representation, he cannot then come back to the client for more money. It also incentivizes efficient work.
The main weakness of Traditional Flat Fee Billing to the client is that if the case settles earlier than expected (i.e. the lawyer only spent 1 hour on the case) then the client would have saved a bunch of money if they had instead chosen a Traditional Hourly Billing approach.
For example, client A chooses Traditional Flat Fee Billing and pays the lawyer a flat fee. The case resolves much quicker than expected and the lawyer only spent 1 hour on the case. The client is happy their matter is resolved but had they chosen Traditional Hourly Billing they would have received a refund.
The first strength of Traditional Hourly Billing is that if the case resolves relatively quickly then the client saves more money going with Traditional Hourly Billing rather than Traditional Flat Fee Billing.
The main weakness of Traditional Hourly Billing is that if the case goes on longer than expected then the client will have to pay the lawyer a second time, sometimes even a third time or more if the case drags on. Viewed from this point of view, Traditional Hourly Billing may amount to a “blank check” so to speak. It also doesn’t necessarily incentivize efficient work nor speedy resolutions.
Modified Flat Fee Billing
Why should a client have to pick their poison? Clients are not fortune tellers meaning they don’t know how long their case may take to reach resolution. There is a solution. I bill the client the lesser of either a flat fee or the hourly rate.
At the beginning of every case I will give you an estimate on your case which acts as my promise to you. When I quote a price, I stick to it. This means that whatever happens in your case, I will never ask you for more money. This gives you comfort in knowing what your maximum fee exposure is on your matter. However, I will also keep track of the hours I spend your case. If during the course of your representation, my hourly billing exceeds the flat fee you paid in the beginning, then I will not bill you for the extra time. If during the course of your representation, my hourly billing does not exceed the flat fee you paid in the beginning, then I will refund any unused portion of the fee you paid.
This arrangement is simple and straightforward. It gives you the strengths of both and the weaknesses of neither. It also makes the financial decision easier on you. At the end of the day, that is a lawyer’s job-to make life easier on you.
Is Modified Flat Fee billing available for all cases?
Some cases are billed at a Modified Flat Fee manner, however please call my office at 502-509-2055 to so we can discuss your specific situation.
Is there a consultation fee?
We offer free consultations.
Why Should I Hire a Private Attorney if I am entitled to a Public Defender at little or no cost?
As a former defender, I will start by stating that the vast majority of public defenders are excellent at what they do and exceptional criminal defense attorneys. However, there are drawbacks to representation by a public defender.
High Caseloads-The American Bar Association sets the maximum number of cases that a full time criminal defense attorney should represent per year is 150 felonies or 400 misdemeanors. Public Defenders routinely exceed these caseloads through no fault of their own. Often, public defenders are far too busy to give your case the time that it deserves.
Switching Attorneys- It is common for public defenders to switch cases thus you may be speaking with a different attorney each time you go to court.
A case that I worked on tirelessly for over a year where my client was facing life in prison concluded with my client cleared of all charges and with her record expunged. The charges she was facing (Armed Robbery) were manufactured from day one by an alleged victim who tried to use the criminal justice system to settle his own score and he just found out the hard way that this is not how the justice system works. Not on my watch at least. Now he himself is sitting behind bars thanks to the tireless efforts of the men and women of the Virginia Beach Police Department and in part to his own stupidity. My client even got her $84 filing fee for their expungement refunded thanks to Va. Code Ann. 19.2-392.2 which states that the clerk must refund such costs if the court enters an order of expungement.
When I tell people that I do criminal defense work, they are oftentimes surprised and ask me, “How can you defend those lowlife scums?” or something to that effect. My response to them is often to tell them a Russian parable. A wolf sees a hare that is hopping like mad away from a village. The wolf asks, “Why such haste? Why are you running away from the village?” The hare responds “Because they are catching all the camels and skinning them alive.” The wolf says, ” But you are not a camel.” The hare responds, “You go ahead and try to prove that to them after they’ve already caught you and skinned you alive.” In other words: “Try to prove something to someone who doesn’t want to listen.” This case demonstrates that commitment to justice can and will change the world, one case at a time.
Disclaimer: Many of the practice summaries and individual attorney biographies on this website describe results obtained in matters handled for our firms clients. These descriptions are meant only to provide information about the activities and experience of our attorneys. They are not intended as a guarantee that the same or similar results can be obtained in every matter undertaken by our attorneys; and you should not assume that a similar result can be obtained in a legal matter of interest to you. The outcome of a particular matter can depend on a variety of factors—including the specific factual and legal circumstances, the ability of opposing counsel, and, often, unexpected developments beyond the control of any client or attorney.