How Much Does A Criminal Lawyer Make in 2023?

When you are charged with a crime, who do you call on to defend you? Your criminal lawyer! And if you don’t have the money to pay for one, the court will help you to get a public criminal lawyer that will defend you in court.

If that is not the case then perhaps you want to be a criminal lawyer but wonder how much they earn and what determines how they earn their salary, Let’s help you with that!

Here, will be answering your question on how much do criminal lawyers make? You will get to know about a criminal lawyer’s salary, who they are, their roles, and more details in this article as you read along. Cheers!

Who Is A Criminal Lawyer?

A criminal lawyer is a person who prosecutes or defends a defendant who has been charged with a crime. They are also known as public offenders and criminal defense lawyers.

Criminal lawyers may work in private firms or maybe public defenders that are appointed by state, federal, or local courts.

By contrast, these set of individuals are mostly public officers paid by the District Attorney’s office and they appear in court on behalf of their government.

A criminal lawyer can either be a public or private criminal lawyer; public criminal lawyers tend to receive lower salaries when compared to private criminal lawyers because a criminal lawyer’s salary comes from the public purse.

Roles And Responsibilities Of A Criminal Lawyer

A criminal lawyer is a job that focuses on serving the public like most government jobs. They handle cases such as domestic violence crimes, violent crimes, sex crimes, drug crimes, driving under the influence crimes, embezzlement, fraud, and theft crimes.

They aim to serve justice the right way, figure out the truth, reduce the rate of crimes in their society and be able to pin the right victims of their crimes. The roles of a criminal lawyer include:

  • To research and investigate specific cases 
  • To interview witnesses
  • To build a defense and develop a strategy to defend their client
  • To negotiate with the prosecution to beg for a bargain to lesser charges
  • To draft, file, and argue appeals
  • To appear at various trials
  • To plan the defense argument against the other party
  • To prove that a defendant is innocent of the charges

The public prosecutor is in charge of deciding whether a particular case has enough evidence for it to be brought to court. They tend to appear at court trials and also try to convince a judge and or jury that a defendant is guilty of the charges placed on him.

They make close contact with the police, defendants, victims, and even the witnesses throughout the period of the criminal proceedings.

Why Should I Become a Criminal Lawyer?

Here are some reasons why you should choose to pursue a career in criminal law:

  1. Impactful work: Criminal lawyers have the opportunity to make a significant impact on people’s lives. They can help ensure that justice is served, and that the rights of their clients are protected.
  2. Diverse cases: Criminal law covers a wide range of cases, from minor offenses to serious crimes. This variety can keep the work interesting and engaging.
  3. High demand: There will always be a need for criminal lawyers, as there will always be people accused of crimes who need representation.
  4. Financial rewards: Depending on the specific area of criminal law and the level of experience, criminal lawyers can earn a good income.
  5. Intellectual challenge: Criminal law can be complex, and the process of analyzing evidence, building a case, and arguing in court can be intellectually stimulating.

Educational Requirements Of A Criminal Lawyer

To be a criminal lawyer the first thing you have to do is go to school and earn yourself a brilliant bachelor’s degree and also attend a law school program for three years duration.

After this, you will have to pass the bar exam conducted by your state in order to get your state license.

To be a prospective criminal lawyer, you will have to complete a minimum of seven years of full-time study at any accredited university of your choice.

Also, as a criminal lawyer, you can further improve your profession by earning board certification from the National board of legal Specialties (NBLSC).

What Industry Can Criminal Lawyers Work In?

Criminal lawyers all work in the criminal justice department whether as public servants or private lawyers. When a person is charged with a crime, the person has the option of hiring a private defense lawyer if the person can afford to pay the fees.

If not, the court will have to appoint a public criminal lawyer to defend the person on his behalf. 

The public criminal lawyers or public defenders are paid by the government either as employees or on a per case basis. A public criminal lawyer takes on any case depending on the municipality’s needs.

These defense lawyers specialize in various kinds of cases such as white-collar crime cases or criminal road traffic violations cases.

How Much Do Criminal Lawyers Make? : The Criminal Lawyer Salary

After passing through several years of education to defend their society rightly and pass out the right judgment, this set of individuals requires a proper compensation for their work.

A criminal lawyer’s salary actually depends on the lawyer’s role and tends to increase with time and experience.

Before, the median annual wage for all lawyers both criminal and non-criminal lawyers was $118,160. By median, it means that half of all lawyers earned less than the specified salary and the other half earned more.

According to research, the lowest-paid 10% of lawyers earned $56,910 annually while the highest-paid 10% earned at least $208,000.

The criminal lawyer’s salary trajectory based on the types of lawyer and years of experience is:

  • The public defender’s salary

A public defender with an entry-level less than 5 years of experience: $52,000

5-10 years of experience: $69,000

10-20 years of experience: $74,000

20+ years of experience: $94,000

  • The Criminal defense lawyer at a private firm’s salary

A criminal defense lawyer at private firms with an entry-level less than five years of experience: $80,000

5-10 years of experience: $96,000

10+ years of experience: $112,000

  • The Public prosecutor’s salary

 A public prosecutor with an entry-level less than five years of experience: $57,000

 5-10 years of experience: $66,000

10-20 years of experience: $100,000

20+ years of experience: $131,000

How Much Tax Do Criminal Lawyers Pay?

The tax charges are taken out of the criminal lawyer’s salary and the remaining balance is paid to them. A federal rate tax of 24% is the tax taken out and the criminal lawyer could expect to have a salary of about $94,734 or more on a yearly basis with each salary resulting in approximately $7,894.5 on a monthly basis.

Top 10 Highest Paying Cities For Criminal Lawyer Jobs

After our research, we have come to find out 10 cities where the criminal lawyer salary is above the normal national average. The first of these cities is Sunnyvale, CA, followed by Santa Rosa, CA, and then Cambridge, MA. Cambridge, MA tops the national average by $13,657 which is 18.4 percent, and Sunnyvale, CA crowns it all by topping the national average by $19,523 which is 26.4 percent.

Also, Sunnyvale, CA is known to have a moderately active criminal lawyer job market with only a few companies currently looking for criminal lawyers.

When considering getting a criminal lawyer job or relocating based on a job you got as a criminal lawyer, you should figure out and analyze the cost of living based on the location.

This will help you to know if the job is worth going for and prevent incurring unnecessary losses.

Below is the list of ten highest paying cities for criminal lawyer jobs, and their annual and hourly salary rates:

City                         Hourly Salary             Annual Salary

Santa Rosa, CA            $43.50                   $90,485

Anchorage, AK             $40.22                   $83,657

San Mateo, CA             $40.64                   $84,522

Baltimore, MD               $39.60                  $82,373

Sunnyvale, CA              $45.00                   $93,608

Vacaville, CA                $41.37                   $86,056

Cambridge, MA             $42.18                  $87,743

New York City, NY        $40.91                   $85,097

Fairfield, CA                 $40.87                   $85,014

Lynn, MA                    $40.28                   $83,788

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Frequently Asked Questions On How Much Do Criminal Lawyers Make?

Do lawyers work full-time?

Many lawyers work full-time hours while some work for over 40 hours in a week. Lawyers working in private firms tend to work for more hours than public defenders lawyers.

Can criminal lawyers meet with their clients outside their offices?

Yes, criminal lawyers can meet with their clients outside their offices at the courthouse, hospitals, restaurants, or any other convenient venue they wish to meet.

What skills does a criminal lawyer need to have?

A criminal lawyer needs to have good writing and speaking skills, creative and analytical skills, interpersonal skills, legal knowledge and experience, and research and investigative skills.

Why do Criminal lawyers need the NBLSC certificate?

Criminal lawyers need the NBLSC certificate to increase their status thereby gaining more recognition in their field and some might result in to increase in salary.

What are the highest-paid criminal lawyers?

The highest-paid criminal lawyers are those that work for a private firm and those that represent high-profile wealthy defendants in various high-stakes cases.


A criminal lawyer is one of the nicest professions we have that secures and deals with people’s lives. The job is not an easy one but it’s a really good profession.

If you are thinking of going for this profession, then you should look at the criminal lawyer salary in the location you want to begin the profession and determine if it affects your cost of living positively or negatively. I hope this article has finally answered your question on how much do criminal lawyers make?

Reference– How Much Do Criminal Lawyer Jobs Pay Per Hour?– Criminal Lawyer Salary– what does a criminal lawyer do?


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