In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” In general, it is almost never in your best interest to represent yourself in a criminal case. Criminal law is robust, complex, and confusing for the average person. Representing yourself can leave you vulnerable to making mistakes. While making an error in many other aspects of life is understandable and can be potentially remedied, mistakes in your own criminal defense could leave you in an undesirable situation. Though you have the right to self-representation, it is not usually in your best interest to take advantage of it. Each phase of mounting a criminal defense can be difficult to navigate alone. Unfortunately, the courts will hold you accountable to the same rules that an attorney must abide by. The difference is, they know them. Learn more below about the perils of self-representation and why you should work with an experienced criminal defense attorney if charged with a crime.
Reasons Why Some Decide to Represent Themself
Though it is not recommended (in any situation involving a criminal charge), some defendants still choose to represent themselves. Typically cited reasons that defendants give for representing themselves include:
- Lack of overall trust for the justice system and desire to make a statement
- Defendant doesn’t believe that the severity of the punishment will warrant the cost of an attorney
- The defendant may plead guilty to an offense that has an unwavering and strictly followed punishment guideline
- The client believes that they are more competent than an attorney
It is important to note that though the aforementioned reasons for defendants choosing to represent themself have some level of merit, they will typically not outweigh the benefits of working with an attorney.
Why Working With an Attorney is in Your Best Interest
Fortunately, the law has provisions in place so that anyone being charged with a criminal offense has the right to an attorney. Even if you cannot afford one, you can have a criminal defense lawyer appointed to you. It is in your best interest to take advantage of that opportunity. If you are faced with criminal charges, then your freedom could be hanging in the balance. A mistake like missed handled evidence, incorrect or lacking motons, etc. can be the difference between having your charges reduced/dropped and being faced with a criminal record. The consequences of even minor charges on your record can have a reverberating effect on many areas of your life to include your finances, ability to drive, loss of freedom, difficulty finding career opportunities, etc If you choose to represent yourself, ensure that you are well aware of the potential consequences of doing so.
Finding The Right Criminal Defense Attorney
Not only is it important to work with a criminal defense attorney, but it is also just as important to hire the right attorney for your specific needs. While court-appointed attorneys have the same education and experience as private attorneys, their typical workload is far heavier. This can cause your lawyer to not give your case as much attention as a private attorney would be able to. However, if you are faced with a decision of working with a court-appointed attorney or representing yourself, it is recommended that you choose the former. When searching for your attorney be sure to inquire of their trial record, experience with your specific issues, as well as fee structure. Lawyer Parikh advises only signing a contract after you feel comfortable and have an understanding of what to expect from your attorney and what they will expect from you.