If you wish to represent yourself in court, the odds are good that you don’t fully grasp how the legal system works. Representing yourself in court can go wrong in a variety of ways, all of which can have real, lasting consequences.
Whether you’re trying to save on cost or time, legal representation isn’t some scam lawyers run. There’s a reason the legal profession exists. Visit our website for more information about the many reasons a lawyer is important in all but the most basic cases.
Reason #1: You Can (Probably) Afford One
You have a legal right to counsel. It is in-built into the American justice system that a lawyer, a legal expert, helps ensure you are treated as the law intends and get a fair trial. That said, you can also choose to refuse this counsel.
Many people avoid hiring a lawyer in order to try and cut costs. On some level, this makes sense. A good, well-established lawyer can be expensive and the quality of service they provide won’t always be necessary.
However, there is almost always a lawyer at your price range. This even includes free or nearly so, so long as you can prove to the court you’re indigent (meaning can’t reasonably afford one).
While it’d be fair to point out those state-provided lawyers are often overworked and underpaid, that’s a different conversation. These lawyers, called public defenders, are still better legal experts than a layperson.
Can you represent yourself in criminal court and win? Yes, and people have. However, that doesn’t make it a good idea and it’s really one only worth considering if you’re an expert in the relevant field of law.
It’s also worth noting it can be quite expensive if you were to lose a case a lawyer could have won for you. You may lose not only money but also years of your time locked somewhere at best unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous.
Reason #2: The Legal System Can Be Labyrinthian
In the section above, we focused on how getting a lawyer is easier than many imagine but why is it bad to represent yourself in court? Why can’t you do the job yourself, whether a lawyer’s help comes free or otherwise?
Look at it another way. Can you represent yourself in federal court with no knowledge of federal law? Can you defend against a DUI without an understanding of police procedure and the basics of why you were charged? The technical answer is “Yes” in that you have the legal right to do so. However, the real answer is “No” in that you aren’t equipped to win such a case.
Even the basics of how a trial works are unknown to the average person, let alone the exhaustive expertise on the specifics of law applicable to a given case. This is not material that can be properly learned in even a couple of months.
This strikes at the core of why you shouldn’t represent yourself in court; the system isn’t designed for it. Winning a case is complicated and technical, going well beyond giving a judge some proof of guilt or innocence.
There is a strong argument, in fact, the system is too complex but those arguments need to be leveled at lawmakers. In court, it is irrelevant. The law that binds you is the law that binds you.
Reason #3: Preparing for Trial is Time Consuming
It is the job of a lawyer to build your case. They will consider the facts they’ve been given, review them with their immense expertise, and often do a great deal of research on similar cases in the past.
This all takes time and some parts of the process may take paperwork or involve other procedures a layperson isn’t knowledgeable in. Many people won’t even know what they don’t know.
Meanwhile, you may be sitting in jail awaiting trial or need to go to work to support your family. Other parts of your life do not sit still as your trial approaches.
Skipping a lawyer means you now have to do everything yourself. The odds are good some part of the equation is going to suffer. If it’s the building of your case, it could very well mean you end up in jail when you didn’t need to.
Reason #4: You Can Verify a Lawyer’s Quality
Unless you’re a legal expert, the odds are almost zero that you have any kind of legal track record. Simply put, you don’t know how good you’re going to do in court in the role of your own representation.
Effort is not the same as skill. You can try as hard as you’d like but there isn’t just a chance but a likelihood that you will be subpar. Defending yourself against real legal charges is not the time to test your mettle for the first time.
Meanwhile, a trained lawyer has testimonials you can review. They’re accountable for their clients and, if found to have failed in their duty to their clients, can face punishment.
While even a good lawyer can’t win every case, you can at least gauge their competence. Someone with a law degree and a good record can be relied on to get you a fair trial. You’re a wild card weighted towards failure.
Do Not Represent Yourself in Court
It may seem like a criminal defense lawyer’s blog telling you not to represent yourself in court is only trying to sell you its services. This isn’t the case. Representing yourself in court is not advisable and it can have real consequences.
Our lawyers provide clients with honest assessments of their cases and will strive for the best result for you. If you’d like an expert to review your case and possibly represent you, contact Jarrett Maillet J.D., P.C.