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3 Dangers of Representing Yourself in Your Criminal Case

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There are a few reasons why a defendant might want to represent themselves in court. Some think they cannot afford a lawyer; others have a misplaced sense of mistrust in the system, which makes them feel they can represent their own interests better. They may wish to plead guilty and therefore think that hiring a lawyer is pointless or they may believe that if they don’t hire a lawyer, they won’t have to play by the rules and can wreak havoc on the system and somehow “trick” the courts.
However, going to court without representation can be dangerous and, in many cases leads to increased stress, confusion, and even harsher sentences for those who decide they’d rather represent themselves. Here are some of the reasons why Pro Se defendants can put themselves at a significant disadvantage:

  1. You are more likely to incriminate yourself.

A good lawyer will make sure that you don’t say something that could damage your case and result in a conviction. A person with no training or intricate knowledge of the law is more likely to say something they shouldn’t and either destroy their own testimony or unwittingly help the prosecution with theirs. An experienced attorney will help guide you so anything you say on record doesn’t jeopardize your case.

  1. You may not explore all the options available to you.

Those who choose to defend themselves may think there are only two outcomes or may not realize there are certain avenues they can explore to help conclude their case without having to go to trial. A plea bargain, for example, can be negotiated via an attorney where the prosecution agrees that the case does not need to go to trial if you plead to a lesser crime. While you can attempt to negotiate a deal with the prosecution yourself, an experienced attorney is at a distinct advantage with regards to helping negotiate the terms in your best interests.

  1. You are unlikely to understand the law as well as a lawyer.

A lawyer has had years of training and will appreciate the intricacies of the law much better than a person with little or no experience. A good lawyer will be able to preempt what the prosecution might use to argue their case and be able to come up with smart strategies to use against them. Once in court, it is not possible to ask the Judge, their staff, or the prosecutor for help if you don’t understand something. If you get something wrong, such as the rules of evidence, for example, your evidence could be wiped from the record and damage your case further.
Before deciding to represent yourself in your criminal case, it is best to think through what advantages you believe doing so could bring. Losing your case could have a significant, lifelong impact and could take away your freedom. If you have a lot to lose, hiring a defense lawyer is almost certainly going to be the best decision.
If you have been charged with a crime, the experienced attorneys and Greg McCollum can help build a robust, aggressive defense to help protect your rights and your freedom. Call us today for a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

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