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The Dangers of Representing Yourself in a Criminal Case

Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

alt textFacing Charges Alone

As a criminal defense attorney, defendants facing charges frequently ask me if they really need an attorney to handle their case. There is no short answer to this question. Every case and every defendant is different. If you are facing criminal charges, however, here are some pieces of information that can help you make the best decision about whether or not to hire legal counsel.

You are allowed to represent yourself in both civil and criminal proceedings. Those that represent themselves in court are referred to as Pro Se, which means on one’s own behalf. Pro Se defendants can face several disadvantages in a criminal case, a few of which I will explain below:

You risk self-incrimination. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can result in a conviction. When defending yourself in a criminal case, what you say on record will be held against you. If you don’t know what to say and what not to say, you could self-incriminate yourself by providing information that strengthens the prosecuting attorney’s argument. An attorney can tell what to say on record without jeopardizing your case.

You may not realize all your options. Many Pro Se criminal defendants think their only option is to plead guilty or go to trial. You do have other options. Many criminal cases are resolved before trial by way of a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a deal negotiated between your attorney and the prosecuting attorney. A plea bargain allows you to plead guilty to a lesser crime, negating the need for trial. While you can attempt to negotiate with the prosecution directly, you may be at a disadvantage. An experienced and effective criminal defense attorney has handled hundreds of successful negotiations and has a better chance of being successful then you will have.

You may not know the intricacies of the law. You are innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove your guilt for you to be convicted. Knowing exactly how the prosecutor will try to prove that can help you strategize your defense. Without understanding criminal law and the rules of evidence (when and how evidence can be used in criminal cases), it’s hard to know how to best defend yourself. When you are in Court, neither the Judge, their staff nor the prosecutor will assist you in navigating through the criminal laws and the rules of evidence.

Before you decide to represent yourself in a criminal case, ask yourself what you stand to lose. Can you risk losing your case? Or do you want to do everything you can to fight your charges? Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney will come at a cost, but that cost is always worth it if you have a lot at stake. Speaking with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney about your case can give you an idea of what you may be up against if you choose to represent yourself, and this will help you make the best decision regarding your defense. Most criminal defense attorneys offer a free consultation so there is nothing to lose in meeting with one or two to talk over your situation.

If you have been recently arrested or are facing charges, the skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC understand how stressful your situation can be and can provide you with tenacious defense in court. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of criminal defense and can help you face and fight your charges with confidence. For a combined 30 years, the lawyers at Padula & Associates have been serving those in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State with aggressive criminal defense services. Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366, email us at info@paduladefense.com or fill out our online free consultation form today.