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Can I Represent Myself in Criminal Court?

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, it can be a frightening experience. Defending yourself from prosecution requires expertise and legal knowledge. Going into a criminal trial without an attorney lowers your chances of returning home once your trial is over. In the age of Google, more and more people think they can provide a strong legal defense for themselves without a law degree or attorney to support them. While the internet and procedural dramas make being a lawyer seem very easy, it's a job that requires years of graduate study and a professional exam. Representing someone in court, even yourself, requires understanding the law, courtroom procedures, and legal terminology.

Defending oneself in court is called a pro se defense, which comes from Latin and means “on behalf of themselves.” According to the US Department of Justice, pro se legal defenses aren’t very effective. A DOJ study of pro se litigants in immigration court found that those who defended themselves were successful 10% of the time. When a pro bono attorney was present to assist on the case, the success rate jumped to 40%. There’s a big difference between immigration and criminal court; with most arguing, there’s more on the line in criminal court! Confidence is an important part of every criminal defense, but so is a lawyer and a strong legal strategy. Representing yourself in criminal court is a very bad idea. Having a lawyer may seem optional, but nothing could be further from the truth. When you could be facing time behind bars, you want a legal defense that’s well-crafted and based on the law.

Three Reasons You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

  • Lawyers Know the Law: It may seem like a little thing, but a criminal defense attorney knows the law and can use their knowledge to help protect your freedom. Being in command of the law and knowing how to use it is vitally important in a criminal defense case.
  • Defense Attorneys Know the System: The courtroom is like a battlefield, and a defense attorney knows the terrain and the battle rhythm. Criminal defense attorneys understand how the prosecution thinks and what to expect from everyone in the system.
  • A Lawyer has Resources: A criminal defense attorney has a staff, researchers, and people to help them create a case strategy for your defense. Being an effective attorney is about more than showing up for court. Some documents must be filed, witnesses must be prepped, and many other tasks. Having a support staff and resources make these things happen.

Another important reason you need a lawyer is that the other side, the prosecution, will not spare you because you aren’t a lawyer – and neither will the judge. The legal system will not tolerate or have patience for what a pro se litigant doesn’t know. Everyone in the legal system expects those in a courtroom to know how to act. Given the specificity and requirements of a criminal case, self-representation is a bad idea.

Don’t Risk Your Freedom by Going Criminal Court Without An Attorney!

If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s a serious legal matter requiring a strong legal defense. When your freedom is in jeopardy, and you’re facing serious consequences if convicted, you need an attorney on your side who understands the law and how to navigate the legal system and advocate on your behalf behind the scenes. If you’re facing criminal charges and need an attorney who will fight for you, contact Bernazzani Law!

Our team can schedule a free, confidential consultation to review your case and create a plan for your defense. Call (603) 261-2214 today!