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Can I Represent Myself in Court? Pro Se Defendants Disadvantaged in Criminal Cases

Posted Friday, February 2, 2018 by Lizanne Padula.

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Can I Represent Myself in Court?

Yes. You have the legal right to represent yourself in criminal (and civil) proceedings against you. A defendant who represents him or herself is referred to as Pro Se, which in Latin means “by itself.”

While you have the right to represent yourself, we urge you not to. The Sixth Amendment and Washington State statute ensures that every criminal defendant, regardless of ability to pay, has the right to counsel. If you truly cannot afford an attorney, the state will provide a public defender for you.

Pro Se Defendants Disadvantaged in Criminal Cases

Representing yourself against criminal charges will severely disadvantage you. Understand that even attorneys typically will not represent themselves in civil or criminal court, because they understand the value of having a dedicated advocate to defend their best interests.

Pro Se defendants are disadvantaged because they:

Run the risk of self-incrimination. Anything you say can and will be held against you. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure that you do not say anything self-incriminating or give other information that will strengthen the state’s case against you.

May not understand the legal and court processes. The procedural process and courtroom proceedings are handled in specific ways, some by statute, some by local custom. Pro Se defendants often do not understand the proper procedures. While most judges will be patient to an extent, not understanding proper procedure can severely harm a pro se defendant’s ability to defend him or herself.

May not understand their options. An experienced criminal defense attorney will explain all of your options and help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option. On the other hand, often Pro Se defendants do not understand their options. They may think their only option is to plead guilty or go to trial, and they may not understand when or how to negotiate a favorable plea deal with the prosecutor.

May not understand the intricacies of criminal law. Having an in-depth understanding of criminal law, the Rules of Evidence, the elements of each crime charged, and how to craft an effective legal strategy are all aspects to mounting a strong defense. If you do not understand the intricacies of criminal law, it is not advisable that you attempt to represent yourself against criminal charges filed against you.

A Criminal Defense Attorney Is Your Best Chance

Having an experienced and effective criminal defense attorney on your side is likely your best chance at getting the most favorable outcome in your case possible. Perhaps your attorney can get the charges against you dropped or reduced to lesser charges.

Hire Padula & Associates, LLC to Defend You

When you hire our firm you will work directly with your attorney. You will not be pushed off to a case manager, left to wonder what is going on in your case.

Lizanne Padula, Founding Partner, is a former Prosecutor. She served as the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Franklin, Clallam, and Jefferson counties. Through the course of her career with the State, Lizanne acquired extensive experience as a criminal trial attorney. As a Prosecutor, her case load included DUI cases, Domestic Violence cases, Drug offenses, and Homicide cases.

Lizanne’s work as a Prosecutor gives her special insight into how the Prosecutor in your case operates. She knows the tactics the government uses when bringing criminal charges. Her experience affords her insider information that greatly benefits her ability to build a strong defense against any criminal charges you are facing. We invite you to learn more about Lizanne here.

The skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC can help you fight the charges that have been filed against you. We answer the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We offer free consultations. Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366 or contact us on the web to schedule your fee consultation today.

Our firm handles State and Federal criminal cases throughout Washington State, including King County and Snohomish County.