How to Choose the Best Criminal Defense Attorney in St. Petersburg

When facing charges, having the right criminal defense lawyer on your side can greatly affect the outcome of your case. Your legal team will serve as your advocate, your counselor, and your voice in the criminal justice system. Of course, no one can predict the outcome of a case, but having the best criminal defense attorney you can find in your corner will certainly give you a better opportunity for a favorable outcome.

The attorney you retain should be qualified, effective, and trustworthy. But with all the firms in St. Petersburg, how do you know which criminal defense lawyer would suit you best? Below are some things to consider when finding a defense attorney to represent you.

What do I look for in a criminal defense lawyer?


First, check the Florida Bar Association to make sure the attorney’s membership is in good standing. On all the attorneys’ bios, you will see helpful information about their background, practice, education, and professional memberships.

You might also consider checking to see if the attorney or firm is AV-rated with Martindale Hubbell. An AV-rating shows that others in the legal community have the utmost respect for the lawyer or firm in question.

Both Summer Goldman and Maribeth Wetzel are in good standing with the Florida Bar. Summer has even received an AV preeminent rating from Martindale Hubbell.

Criminal law experience: When your future and freedom are at stake, you likely do not want to entrust your case to a new lawyer. Find a lawyer who has notable experience in criminal law.

Goldman Wetzel has been representing Tampa-area residents charged with crimes since 2009. However, our experience does not stop there. Summer started her career as a prosecutor for the State Attorney’s Office in Pinellas County. Maribeth has dedicated her entire career to working for the defense, representing juveniles, adults, and clients with severe mental illness.

Handles cases similar to yours: Some lawyers focus their practice on just a few types of cases, such as DUIs, white-collar crimes, or drug crimes. Look for a lawyer that has experience handling criminal cases similar to yours in St. Petersburg. It is perfectly acceptable to ask potential attorneys if they have ever represented clients with charges similar to yours and what the outcomes of the cases were.

Goldman Wetzel has experience handling all types of criminal law cases from theft to murder and manslaughter. And because we have experience handling cases from both sides of the aisle, we have a distinct advantage.

Negotiation and trial experience: Because you cannot predict whether your case will settle before or conclude with a trial, ensure your attorney is adept at both negotiations/plea bargains, as well as representing clients throughout the entire trial and appeals process.

Summer and Maribeth have extensive experience with both negotiations and trials. Maribeth’s background of working as a public defender emphasizes trial work, while Summer’s experience as an Assistant State Attorney brings an insider’s knowledge of how to approach negotiations and trial.

Legal skills and strategies: The attorney you choose should give you the impression that she possesses the know-how, skills, and strategies necessary to effectively manage your case. If you can find a firm like Goldman Wetzel whose attorneys brainstorm, develop, and work on all their cases together, synthesizing their skills and insights, all the better for you because multiple minds are better than one.

Summer and Maribeth use their unique experiences on different sides of the justice system to think outside the box and create the best strategy for their clients.

Local: Each circuit and court has a set of preferred practices, protocols, and nuances. Select an attorney who has managed cases in the county where the judge will hear your case. Your attorney’s familiarity with the local court, judges, and prosecutors can work in your favor.

Summer and Maribeth handle cases in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, and Manatee counties. We have experience with the court systems and know the key players in each of these counties. We also ensure the prosecutors know our clients so they can put a face to the name, instead of thinking of them as just another case file. 

Successful case history: This goes without saying, but make sure the attorney you opt for has a successful history of cases. Ask about her recent case outcomes. While you cannot expect her to win her cases 100 percent of the time, a generous proportion of her cases should end in dropped charges, favorable plea bargains, diversion programs, reduced charges, and acquittals.

We draw on our experience and our long list of successful cases to create defenses for each client who comes through the door. Feel free to ask us about our case history when you meet with us.

Positive testimonials: Look for reviews, ratings, and testimonials for each firm and attorney you consider. You should see positive feedback on Google, AVVO’s directory,, Facebook, and the Better Business Bureau.

We go above and beyond for all our clients, which is apparent from our client testimonials. We know that a lawyer’s work never stops which is why we make ourselves available for our clients whenever they need us.

Rapport: Do not underestimate the importance of the attorney-client relationship. You should have a rapport with and a sense of trust in your lawyer and feel personally comfortable speaking with her. She should be patient, informative, assertive, and genuine, and make you feel like you are a part of the decision-making process, rather than a mere case number.

We want you to feel at ease each step of the way with us. We make sure we keep you informed at every turn and treat you with the respect you deserve. Our clients are never just another number for us.

Where do I begin my search for an attorney in St. Petersburg?

Many people hire a criminal defense attorney based on the advice of an acquaintance or friend of a friend. This is not always the best way to find a lawyer that fits your needs. Do not base your entire search on a general word-of-mouth recommendation. The aforementioned resources, e.g., the Florida Bar, AVVO,, and the BBB, are far more reliable for referrals.

Once you have identified a few prospects, look around the firm’s website and check out attorney bios, areas of practice, and case histories. They should appear professional, transparent, and free of over-the-top promises. If the firm seems like it could be the right fit, contact the office and request a free consultation.

During the consultation, ask a lot of questions about the attorney’s qualifications, history, and practice. Brief her on your case and ask how she foresees managing it if you decide to retain her. If she seems vague, harried, or apprehensive about sharing information, take your search elsewhere. When you find the right attorney, you will leave the meeting feeling confident in her abilities to represent you effectively.

Consult our criminal defense lawyers in St. Petersburg today.

Our team of attorneys at Goldman Wetzel has over 25 combined years’ experience representing people facing all types of misdemeanor and felony charges in St. Petersburg. If you or a loved one has recently been arrested or charged with a crime, contact our firm today for a free consultation: 727-828-3900.