The Risks Of Self-Representation In Criminal Cases


People in North Carolina are often encouraged to take care of things themselves. If one goes into a local bookstore, that person would find dozens of how-to books on subjects such as growing a container garden, restoring a vintage automobile, plumbing, basic auto repair and even how to handle their own legal matters. As such, when people are arrested and charged with breaking the law, they may think they can act as their own legal counsel. However, making such a decision comes with certain risks.

A constitutional right

Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute states that people’s ability to forego having a lawyer represent them is a constitutional right, established by the Sixth Amendment. That said, however, courts have made rulings over the years that still give defendants representing themselves access to legal counsel.

Understanding the law

Before people make the decision to be their own attorney, they should take time to look at the entire picture. The American Bar Association points out the fact that prosecutors have attended law school and they often have many years of experience inside a courtroom. This gives them a clear advantage as they understand the components of the law.

On the other side, however, people may not have all of the information they need to defend themselves as well as if they had an attorney. Modern laws are often complex and contain many provisions. This can put people at a distinct disadvantage.

No sympathy from the court

People should also understand that they are under the same requirements and guidelines as an attorney. This means they need to file the proper documents and on time. They should also understand the administrative processes of the court and be prepared when they appear before the judge or jury. While some people may think that the court will be more sympathetic toward them if they are representing themselves, they will find that this is not always so.

Lack of training

In a criminal defense strategy, it is important to question the evidence, how the evidence was obtained and even the strength of that evidence. For people who act as their own legal counsel, their lack of training in these skills can put them at a higher risk of being convicted. For example, they not be familiar enough with law enforcement policies to spot an error that was made concerning vital evidence, and be able therefore, to have that evidence tossed out. Additionally, people in this situation or less able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get their charges reduced or dropped altogether.

Attorneys who handle charges involving sexual assault and other crimes have a deep understanding of the investigative process. This gives them the power to identify problems or holes in the prosecution’s case and bring attention to those issues.

Facing a criminal charge in Charlotte is no light matter. Therefore, people may find it to their benefit to discuss their situation with a criminal attorney who can explain to them what their legal rights are and advise them of their available options.