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Why Criminal Defendants Should Not Represent Themselves in Court
If you've been charged with a crime and are thinking about representing yourself in court, think again. You've heard the saying, "A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient." Similarly, a criminal defendant who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.
5 Reasons to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Why shouldn't you save some money and represent yourself? Let's look at some of the reasons:
- You'll make mistakes. The law is precise, with a lot of rules and requirements. A simple mistake-a missed deadline or filing the wrong paperwork-could mean the difference between freedom and jail time. Do you have complete confidence in your ability to become an overnight expert in the legal system and the criminal process?
- The prosecutor and judge won't take it easy on you simply because you lack a lawyer. The judge hearing your case and the lawyer who is prosecuting it may see dozens of criminal defendants each and every day. With a long list of cases to deal with, they will have little patience if you slow things down and are making mistakes. Ask yourself: Do you want to annoy the two people who may have the biggest influence on whether you land in prison?
- Criminal defense lawyers study and train for years before they first appear in court. If the law were easy, the world wouldn't need lawyers. After college, attorneys spend three years in law school then train as "associates" for seven to 10 years. All the while, they're regularly attending seminars, reading articles and continuing to learn.
- It probably won't save you any money. Say you've been charged with a misdemeanor crime that could bring a fine of a couple hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Maybe you want to save the cost of hiring a criminal defense attorney because you know you'll have to pay the fines. An attorney may be able to strike a deal with the prosecutor in exchange for a lower fine-or no fine at all. Often a lawyer is the best investment you'll make when you've been charged with a crime.
- Most importantly, a criminal conviction will have long-lasting repercussions. Depending on the severity of the charges, you're putting your freedom, your job, your relationships and your money on the line when you represent yourself in criminal court. Are you really willing to take the risk and lose all of those things simply because you decided not to hire an attorney?