It’s never a good idea to represent yourself in court in the event that you’re charged with a crime because the knowledge of law required to launch a proper defense is simply beyond the expertise of the average layman.
It’s been said that a client who defends himself in court has a fool for a lawyer.
When you’re charged with any crime, the consequences can be very serious, from jail time to hefty fines. It’s almost always a good idea to consult with a criminal lawyer so they can assess your case and advise you on how to proceed. Many times, criminal lawyers specialize in areas of law specific to your case. Reviewing the list below of the tasks for which a criminal defense lawyer is responsibilite should convince you that it’s not a good idea to represent yourself in a criminal case for misdemeanors and felonies.
Assignment of the Case: A criminal defense lawyer may be contacted directly by you or may be assigned by the court. Many are public defenders paid by the local public defender’s office. They are assigned by the courts. Other criminal defense lawyers are hired by private firms. Some criminal defense lawyers have their own private practice they maintain themselves. Public defenders tend to be paid a lower salary than private lawyers. They also tend to have a higher case load. In rare cases, a court may appoint a private lawyer to take a specific case.
Interview You About the Case: By asking you pointed and specific questions about the case, a criminal defense attorney learns about your possible defenses as well as the relative strengths and weaknesses in your case. This requires a thorough questioning of the defendant.
Investigation and Analysis of the Case: In addition to asking pointed questions about the case, he or she must fully investigate the case file to determine more avenues for your acquittal or reduced sentencing. They must study relevant case law, your file, interview witnesses, and/or hire expert witnesses. This often includes questioning the police about the procedures they used in conjunction with your case. All of this information is collected to build the strongest defense possible. If an expert witness is used in the case, the criminal defense lawyer may interview him or her about the testimony he or she may provide and the evidence that may be presented in case.
A criminal defense lawyer has the right to review the prosecution’s case before it’s submitted to the jury. This allows him or her to find holes in the government’s case against the defendant and to discover any exculpatory evidence that may refute the prosecutor’s case. Even in employment law a criminal defense attorney is sometimes warranted.
Continued Contact with You: A criminal defense lawyer should stay in contact with you to explain any developments in the case–to keep you informed about your case. Obviously, he or she must also ensure that your conversations are kept confidential. The lawyer must also discuss possible consequences of his or her defense strategy and plea offers with you.
Jury Selection: Often a charge never goes to trial, but in the even that it does, selecting a fair jury is an important oversight responsibility of a good defense attorney. He or she may request that jurors be removed for cause such as bias against the defendant.
Plea Bargaining: A criminal defense lawyer is also responsible for talking about the status of the case and negotiating with the prosecutor regarding any particular plea bargain. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to help secure a favorable deal for the defendant that results in a reduction of charges or the possible punishment.
Trial Questioning and Closing Arguments: A criminal defense lawyer fights for his or her client during the trial. He or she examines witnesses, cross-examines the state’s witnesses and tries to convince the jury that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proof.
Sentencing: A criminal defense lawyer also represents the defendant during the sentencing phase. The lawyer will present the factors that “mitigate” a long sentence in your case and may also present arguments against incarceration, depending upon the conviction.
Now that you’ve had time to chew on what you’d need to do to defend yourself, it’s easy to see the truth in the old axiom, “A client who defends himself in court has a fool for a lawyer.”