While many legal questions are difficult and complex to answer, the question of whether you need a criminal defense attorney is straightforward. If you have been charged with a crime, then you need an attorney on your side. Read on to understand why this is such an important decision and to learn about the very small number of edge cases where representing yourself in a criminal court may make sense.
Trials are Incredibly Time Consuming
If you have never been involved directly in a trial before, then you are likely unprepared for the sheer amount of paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles involved. Pursuing a criminal defense is not only a full-time job, but it is also often a full-time job for entire teams of trained legal professionals. Not only will you be taking all of this onto yourself, you will be doing so while also working your day job and learning the many complexities of the legal system.
The Law is Complex
Not only will need to learn that laws that are applicable to your case, but you will also need to become intimately familiar with courtroom procedure and the many rules surrounding evidence and witness testimony. Small mistakes can lead to important evidence going unseen by the jury or witnesses failing to provide testimony that is key to your case. Even worse, fumbling through these procedures is unlikely to impress the judge and may do serious harm to overall defense.
Law Books Cannot Replace Real World Experience
Even if you are confident in your ability to research and understand all of the legal complexities of your case, you still will not have the real world experience of a defense attorney who has been through numerous trials and represented a wide variety of clients. Experience within the court system is vital to success, and professional attorneys will know the ins and outs of the system in ways that you will not be able to learn simply from reading textbooks.
Even more importantly, the firm you hire will likely have experience with the local court system as well as the judge that will ultimately be conducting your trial. This institutional knowledge is arguably far more valuable than any technical legal knowledge.
When Defending Yourself Makes Sense
Although you should almost always use an attorney to defend yourself in court, in rare instances it may make sense to defend yourself. If the crime is very minor and the maximum possible punishment very light, then you may choose to defend yourself. In these cases, you should only be willing to defend yourself because you are willing to accept the consequences of losing your trial.
If a possible criminal conviction is unacceptable, then defending yourself against even very minor charges is likely a poor decision. Likewise, you may choose to represent yourself if you intend to plead guilty and there is no possibility of negotiating reduced sentencing.
While self-representation is certainly a legal right that is available to you, it makes sense only in a small number of very unusual cases. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to defend yourself in a criminal court, having a professional lawyer on your side is the best way to guarantee a fair trial for yourself. For more information, contact a criminal defense attorney such as Barry W Engle PC.