Should You Represent Yourself in a Criminal Case?

Self-representation for criminal charges may seem like a good idea at the time, especially if your finances are stretched thin. In the long-term, the consequences of representing yourself in a criminal case may be far-reaching. If you’re thinking about foregoing a lawyer, think about the following before you decide that you can represent yourself.

Do You Know the Legal Process?

The law is complex. Will you be able to keep up with all the moving parts without missing an important element? There are deadlines for getting paperwork to the court. You have to know how to present evidence. Do you understand the rules of the courtroom? Can you protect your legal rights when you’re representing yourself against a prosecutor with years of experience? Do you know how to present yourself to a jury and judge for best results? You need to consider the outcome before you decide to represent yourself.

Do You Know the Other People Involved?

Good criminal justice lawyers know the district attorneys, judges and law enforcement in the community. Some judges may come down harder on certain crimes. Certain prosecutors may be more willing to make a deal. This information can help you make better decisions about the final outcome. When you’re representing yourself, you don’t have this type of information. Lawyers know how to interview witnesses and talk to juries, which can make or break your case.

What Are the Long-term Consequences?

Think about what happens in a worst-case scenario, that is, you get sentenced to the maximum penalty. What happens to your career if you are in jail one, two or more years? What about the impact on your family? You may also want to think about what happens if you are convicted of DUI, for example. You may not be able to get a professional license with a felony on your record. Your insurance rates will increase. Generally speaking, the bigger the punishment, the more you need a lawyer on your side.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

The old saying is that “a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Even if you aren’t ready to commit to a lawyer for the entire case, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer before you move forward. A consultation can help you gain a better understanding to find the best outcome. Talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in San Mateo, CA about your situation to make sure that you’re doing what is best under the circumstances.

Thanks to The Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and representing yourself in court.