Compare Legal Defense Fees and Lawyer Costs


Learn about approximate Lawyer and Attorney costs, filing fees and other related expenses you’ll pay for various types of criminal law offenses including murder, assault, robbery and drugs.

There are many offenses that are considered as part of criminal law. For the most part, they are what you may think such as murder, rape and assault. But you will also find a need for a criminal attorney if you are charged with drug offenses or even blackmail. Included on this page of the we outline the different types of criminal law, what they mean and also provide average costs you may expect to pay if you are charged. We cover the following topics in this guide:

Assault Legal Costs

Most of the population believes that when someone is accused of assault they have actually hit another person or had physical contact with them in some way.  However, assault cases encompass any act that an individual commits that causes fear, injury or bodily harm to another. Charges will most likely be in one of the following categories;  common or simple assault, assault with bodily harm, battery and assault on a police officer.  Common or simple assault is defined as a threat of bodily harm and the ability to cause the harm. While it seems this type of assault carries an intent to harm, it is usually not tried in court this way and may only be heard by a magistrate.

Assault with bodily harm means the same thing, but you followed through with harming the individual and it will be a criminal proceeding in front of a judge. Similarly, battery is defined as assault, but with the intent of causing harm. Battery is a much more serious offense and carries more prison time. Assault on a police officer does not necessarily mean you hit an officer intentionally. You can be charged with this offense if you swing your arms and accidentally hit them of if you have any physical contact with an officer during a traffic stop, questioning or arrest.

The costs provided in the below table are based on a good legal defense and argued in front of a judge. If your case goes to trial, the costs can double. If your attorney is able to plea bargain for you, the cost will average $3,500 – $5,000. These prices do not include the initial retainer fee which will average $2,000 – $4,000.

Assault Legal Costs
Average Cost
$12,000 – $15,000
$10,000 – $12,000
Assault with Bodily Harm
$18,000 – $25,000
Police Officer Assault
$15,000 – $20,000

Murder and Manslaughter Legal Costs

For obvious reasons, these offenses are the most serious you can commit and you will most likely be facing prison time.  Murder has a few different levels; first degree (capitol murder), second degree and felony murder. First degree murder is the most serious charge you can receive and means that it was deliberate, planned and premeditated. You thought about it before you committed it and causing death was the ultimate goal. Second degree murder means that you have killed someone with premeditation – such as getting into a fight, going into your car to get a gun, shooting and killing. Your intent with the altercation was not to kill. Felony murder is treated very much like second degree murder, but includes the commission of a felony when the murder occurred such as; committing robbery with a group and one of them kills an individual. Even though you did not kill anyone, the death happened while committing felony robbery. Conspiracy to commit murder means that you were part of the planning or commissioned someone to kill another individual. Conspiracy will be upgraded to murder or manslaughter if death occurs.

Manslaughter can be voluntary or  involuntary.  Voluntary manslaughter, commonly called “heat of passion” murders, means you were in some way strongly provoked. Involuntary manslaughter refers to unintentional murder during the commission of a crime other than a felony. For instance, if you are driving recklessly or under the influence and you hit and kill someone, you are likely to be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

As noted earlier, these are all serious offenses, but with the help of good legal counsel, you could likely have charges or prison time reduced. You hear about many people that are charged with first degree murder, but the vast majority will get reduced charges when offered a plea deal in lieu of jury trial.

Most people that are accused of the below charges will choose to have a public defender try their case due to the high cost of hiring their own. However, those with enough money to do so, should hire a highly skilled attorney. Death penalty cases should add and additional $150,000 to the costs outlined below.

Murder and Manslaughter Fees
Average Cost
$100,000 – $150,000
$75,000 – $100,000
Conspiracy to Commit Murder
$50,000 – $75,000

Sexual Offenses Legal Costs

There are two primary categories for sex crimes, forcible and non-forcible. Forcible offenses include rape, statutory rape, sex with a minor, molestation and sexual assault. Non-forcible includes lewd acts, solicitation and indecent exposure.

It makes no difference if your charges are reduced, if you are charged and convicted of any offense that falls under sex crimes, you will be considered a sex offender and your name included on state and federal sex offender registries. You will remain on the registry for the rest of your life and in most likelihood, you will have difficulty finding or keeping a job or securing custody of your children, just to name a few.

In the case of a more minor charge of solicitation, if you are a first time offender you most likely will not serve jail time. In more serious cases such as rape or any offense that involves a child, it is imperative to secure an attorney, although don’t expect a reduction in prison time. However, there are times that you may be able to plea to a lower charge, but it is unlikely if there is sufficient evidence to convict.

Costs for an attorney for more severe sexual offense cases such as rape will be hefty and could rise to the cost of a murder trial, especially the offense involves a child. Costs below do not include initial retainer fees that will range from $5,000 – $10,000. You will also be offered a public defender if you cannot pay for a legal defense.

Sexual Offenses Legal Costs
Average Cost
Molestation (Lewd Act with Minor)
$12,000 – $15,000
$15,000 – $18,000
Statutory rape or Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with Minor
$15,000 – $20,000
Lewd or Lascivious Acts
$5,000 – $7,500
$2,000 – $3,000
Possession or Distribution of Child Pornography
$7,000 – $10,000

Drug Offenses Legal Costs

Most often drug offenses are treated as felonies, but in the case of possession of more minor drugs, such as marijuana, it depends on the amount of the drug involved and if you had the intent to sell. First time offenders of a “recreational amount” of marijuana are usually plead out of court and offenders are sentenced to probation and drug counseling. If you are in possession of legal drugs that are not prescribed to you, you may face a more strict sentencing solely based on how you procured them.

Manufacturing, cultivating or trafficking of drugs is more serious because there is an implied intent to sell. For instance, if you are convicted of drug trafficking, you will not only receive jail time, but face other repercussions such as denial of government benefits and may be forced to forfeit personal property, including your home. There are ways an attorney can fight or lessen these charges for you, most commonly using the defense of illegal search and seizure by authorities.

Drug offense attorney costs run the gambit and are based on the amount of the drugs you possess and if you sold them. Attorney retainer fees will run $2,000 – $5,000 (for a misdemeanor) and $5,000 – $10,000 (for a felony) and are not included in the costs below. For less serious charges of  “recreational amounts” of marijuana, you can expect to pay a flat fee of around $900 – $1,500 if you are first offender.

Drug Offenses Legal Fees
Average Cost
Possessing and Use of Illegal Drugs
$5,000 – $7,500
Drug Trafficking
$15,000 – $20,000
Manufacture or Cultivation of Illegal Drugs
$20,000 – $30,000
Forging Drug Prescriptions
$2,000 – $2,500

Robbery and Extortion Legal Costs

Robbery, in basic terms means that you have forcibly taken away property or goods and used intimidation or threatened (whether by words or weapons), and you intended to walk away with the goods. Robbery convictions, especially those that include weapons, can be punishable with a life sentence.

Extortion and blackmail are very similar, but extortion is a bit more serious. Extortion means that you have have intentionally threatened a person, their family or property for the purpose of taking something from them against their will. An example of extortion would be a public official who uses their position to threaten a release of information that could damage your reputation (to the point you would have to close your business or quit your job). Blackmail on the other hand, is threatening to release information that would be embarrassing to friends, family or co-workers.  In both cases the intent of the perpetrator is to make you do something for them so they will not release information. Punishments are dependent upon the severity of the charges and you can expect to pay your attorney a retainer fee of $2,500 – $5,000.

Robbery and Extortion Legal Fees
Average Cost
$5,000 – $7,000
Armed Robbery
$35,000 – $50,000
Aggravated Armed Robbery
$50,000 – $75,000
$10,000 – $15,000
$5,000 – $7,500

Burglary and Theft Legal Costs

There are many charges that fall under the umbrella of burglary, but for the most part, burglary is defined as an intentional act of breaking into a dwelling with all intent to commit theft or other illegal act. Burglary charges may be included along with other charges such as breaking and entering in order to remain in the structure to then commit rape. In which case you have will be charged with more than one felony.

Theft on the other hand does not always include the entering of a dwelling as it could be the theft of a purse or wallet, so there will be no burglary charges associated with it. Minor theft under $1,000 will most likely be treated as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

If you receive any stolen items and have them in your possession, you could also be charged even if you did not steal anything. Courts have to prove that you knew the property had been stolen in order to prosecute these cases, hence the reason many offenders are offered plea bargains.

Embezzlement, which is the act of misappropriating money that is left in their care, is also part of theft laws. An example of embezzlement could be a payroll clerk using company funds to write checks to themselves or try to hide money they are taking. People who embezzle, depending upon the severity, can face harsh punishments and spend the rest of their life re-paying the company or person they embezzled from.

Burglary and Theft Legal Costs
Average Cost
Receiving and Custody of Stolen Goods
$10,000 – $15,000
Breaking and Entering
$12,500 – $18,000
Motor Vehicle Theft
$5,000 – $7,500
$5,000 – $10,000

Criminal Law Court Costs and Filing Fees

Most court costs are included in defense attorneys costs, but if you are found guilty of the charge, along with your punishment will most likely be included a fine. These fines are paid to the court and can range from $1,500 – $20,000 or more depending on the circumstances.

Other Incidental Criminal Law Expenses

Over and above attorney retainer fees and cost of arguing your case, you may have to pay other fees for investigators, psychologists, doctor testimony and compensation to your victim. These are just some of the extra fees you might incur and depending on the charge, there could be others, especially if your victim files a civil case against you. From that point, you will be hiring another attorney to fight that case as well.

Incidental Criminal Law Related Expenses
Average Cost
Compensation for Pain and Suffering of Victim
$10,000 – $50,000+
$100 – $125/hr
Psychologists or Doctors
$75 – $100/hr

Visitor Submitted Criminal Law Legal Costs

The information included on this page is gathered from our readers around the country as well as conversations with industry professionals. In order to compile this data, we depend on you, our readers to submit their information as well. If you could, please take the time to submit your actual costs for hiring a criminal law attorney so we can continuously update our information. We will not use any personal information, only costs that are relevant to our tables.

Criminal Law Costs Paid by Others
City, State
Actual Cost
Worcester, MA
Note: Embezzled from small HVAC company in the amount of $35,000. Sentenced to 1 yr prison and 5 yrs probation.
Possession of Child Pornography
Austin, TX
$9, 680
Note: Possessing child pornography (without distribution). First time offender, sentenced to 10 yr probation, sex offender registry
Solicitation of Prostitute
Bishop, GA $2,900
Note: Repeat offender soliciting prostitute. Sentenced to 6 months in prison.

Submit your Criminal Law Legal Costs to the Comparison Table

** We never share your personal information. We do edit the wording in our visitor submissions for spelling and grammar errors before posting onto the website.