Representing yourself in criminal court is a bad idea.
You’ll be what the courts call a pro se defendant. Just because you have the right to do it doesn’t mean you should.
You’ll be responsible for your entire case. Every single little thing from collecting evidence to making statements, to standing up in court and filing arguments.
Here’s why self-representation in criminal court is a bad idea.
Lawyers Know the Law
Be honest with yourself – are you familiar with the law relating to your charges? Do you understand the implications of the charges, and the letter of the law which has put you in this position?
Can you form a complex legal argument – not a moral or anecdotal argument – to fight for your freedom? Will you turn up to court when you’re supposed to, without fail?
Could you look for technical breaches of procedural rules that would force the case to be dropped, and allow you to walk free?
If the answer to these questions is no, give yourself the best chance of success. Look for a lawyer to represent you.
Talking in Court is Difficult
Courts are intimidating places. Barristers train for years before they’re ready to speak in court. There’s a bachelor’s degree, law school, and state bar examinations to pass – and that’s just the written side of things.
What makes a truly great lawyer is the years of experience they have built up. Practice means they can talk fluently in court, and in their speech capture all aspects which benefit their client.
Under pressure, you may find yourself struggling to think of what to say next. Or repeating yourself. Judges are not always forgiving, and sometimes have extremely short tempers.
Leave it to a professional who is used to engaging with judges, and can speak to them on their level.
Getting an Outside Perspective
Did you know that even qualified lawyers think it’s not a great idea to represent themselves in court? That’s not just because they can’t claim back their legal costs.
It might be because they’re not specialists in the particular niche their charge falls into. Which, we should mention, shows that no lawyer is a one-fits-all representative. The law is so complex no one can specialize in too much at once.
So if you think that you can become an expert on the law relating to your case in a few weeks or months – with respect – you’re wrong.
To get back to our first point, lawyers hire lawyers because it’s also good to get another perspective on the case. When going pro se in criminal court, it’s too easy to put blinkers on and miss the obvious.
You may also feel outraged when you’ve been accused of something, which can restrict your objectiveness. And as courts are objective in nature, you’re not gearing up for a good time.
Representing Yourself in Criminal Court – Don’t
As you’ve seen, representing yourself in criminal court is not a fantastic idea.
You’re entering a highly complex legal world where cases can turn on a single word. And without the expertise of a lawyer on your side, you’re unlikely to pick up on that.
Don’t risk incarceration for the sake of pride. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.