Should I Represent Myself in a Criminal Case?
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” If you’re a defendant in a criminal trial, you may represent yourself, but this decision should not be taken lightly. There are many things to consider when representing yourself, and if you’re not well-versed in legal matters, you may quickly find yourself in over your head. It is important to understand what comes with the role of being your own attorney.
What Are Your Rights?
As an experienced law firm knows, like the San Mateo team at Morales Law Firm, a person can choose to represent themselves pro se, which means “for one’s own behalf,” as long as he or she has enough expertise and knowledge of the criminal justice process to do so. You do not necessarily need to be a legal professional, but you must have a certain level of education for this to be permitted. There are other factors that a judge will consider as well, such as your age and ability to communicate.
Why Would You Want To Represent Yourself?
There are a variety of reasons why you would want to represent yourself. Saving money is one consideration; lawyers can be expensive, for some prohibitively so. You may also not trust the criminal justice system or you may believe you are the best person for the job. However, if a judge determines that you are not able to defend yourself with a reasonable amount of competence, the court may override your decision and appoint an attorney for you.
What Do You Need To Consider?
If you choose to represent yourself, you have to understand what comes with the role. You may receive a lengthy list of witnesses, and you must consider who is likely to be called by the prosecution to testify. You must be able to know what the witnesses plan to say and how you will undermine their testimony. You must undergo what is called the discovery process, which is when you and the prosecution share information about the case. You need to understand what a Pitchess motion and a Serna motion are, and how they differ. Ultimately, you need to make jurors doubt the prosecution’s case and whether you are guilty. This is just a sample of your responsibilities when acting as a lawyer.
pWhile you may have the legal right to be your own attorney, the risks must be properly considered before going this route. As a criminal defense attorney Redwood City CA residents trust from Morales Law Firm would advise, it is almost always a better idea to consult a professional attorney. If you find yourself in need of a defense, contact a criminal justice lawyer who has the know-how to properly represent you.