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Why Representing Yourself in a Criminal Case is a Bad Idea

Criminal Case

Under the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution, every person is guaranteed the right to counsel, including the right to represent themselves. However, very few people choose to represent themselves in court, and for good reason. When you decide to represent yourself, you assume full responsibility for all things pertaining to your case, from meeting all deadlines, gathering evidence, documents, witnesses, and dealing with any other issues that come up.

Criminal defense attorneys have spent years learning about laws and the legal system. And while it may seem too expensive to hire a criminal defense attorney, the effects of not hiring an attorney can be even more significant. This article will share some reasons why representing yourself in a criminal case is a bad idea.

Lack of Knowledge of the Law

It takes years for attorneys to gain the knowledge and experience needed to understand courtroom procedure. In addition, most judges will strictly enforce these rules. If you don’t know the rules of procedure, you will have a difficult time launching your defense. You also risk making an error that will put you in contempt of court, resulting in fines or jail time.

Lack of Legal Experience

Lawyers who have completed law school and passed their Bar exam still observe cases with more experienced attorneys before trying a case. Reading juries and knowing how to assess witnesses is vital for successfully trying a case.

An experienced attorney will have the questions prepared to ask the prosecution’s witnesses before the trial. It’s important to have all exhibits marked and ready when the questioning begins. They know what questions to ask, and just as important, they know what questions not to ask. This skill isn’t something that the average person has, and it takes most lawyers years to perfect it.

Having trial experience also gets you familiar with judges. You learn what irritates them, if they have any biases, other details about how they think, and how they like their courtroom to run. This knowledge is not something you will have when representing yourself.

Risk Self-Incrimination

The prosecution can use anything you say or do against you when representing yourself. And since you lack experience and knowledge of the law, you risk saying things that could hurt your case when pleading your case.

Your criminal defense attorney can protect you from harassing questions the prosecutor may ask you. They can also object to questions that may not be relevant to the central issue of your case. These objections require a skilled attorney to protect you adequately.

Lack of Investigative Experience

One of the essential parts of creating a solid defense is investigation. Most criminal defense attorneys have a substantial amount of investigative resources. They put these resources to work to find evidence to help their client’s cases. If you don’t have access to these resources, the only evidence presented at your trial will be the evidence from the prosecution. And even if you strongly challenge the evidence, it may not be enough without your own evidence and witnesses.

Your Emotions Could Get in the Way

You’re likely to be nervous when representing yourself in court. And since you’re representing yourself, the prosecutor may try to get under your skin. That, coupled with the evidence pointing at your guilt, can lead you to get defensive and start acting with emotion instead of focusing on attacking the evidence. If those emotions cause you to say something you shouldn’t, you could irreparably harm your case.

Judges and Court Staff Cannot Assist You

Court clerks are prohibited from completing forms for you, and they, as well as judges, are not allowed to provide legal advice to anyone. However, judges will typically be patient with you and make sure you understand your rights. They may also suggest that you retain counsel, especially if jail time is a possible sentence.

Don’t Risk Your Future or Freedom. Let Widder Law Represent You

There is no guarantee that you will avoid all consequences by hiring an attorney to represent you. However, your odds are better at getting a favorable outcome with an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to navigate you through the court system.

Widder Law has represented hundreds of clients who have been charged with a wide range of criminal offenses. We are committed to listening to your unique situation, helping you decide on the outcome you desire, and fighting to get you the result that is best for you and your future.
We’re ready to help. Contact us today to discover how we can help you get the outcome you’re looking for.


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