Representing Yourself in Court Cases

The most important tip for anyone who is involved in a court case is to hire an attorney as soon as possible. Everyone agrees that representing yourself is a very bad idea. In fact, this advice is so universal, even lawyers will frequently hire an attorney, instead of represent themselves despite their legal training. Is this really necessary, however? Is there any situation where you should represent yourself? This guide will go over this question’s answer.

Criminal Cases

If you have been accused of a crime, then one of the first things that will happen is a court appearance called the arraignment. This is the time when you must enter a plea. You can either plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced immediately, since a trial is not necessary. An attorney is not necessary if you plan to plead guilty, although you should absolutely speak with an attorney prior to entering this plea. Pleading guilty very well may not be your best option.

In criminal cases, everyone is entitled to a public defender. If you cannot afford a private attorney, a public defender, who is simply an attorney employed by the state, will be assigned to you. This means there is never any reason anyone should ever represent themselves in a criminal case.

Civil Cases

In civil cases, you cannot receive the services of a public defender. This means defending yourself is an option, although it is not a very good option. If you cannot afford an attorney, there are a few options still available to you:

  • Pro Bono Attorney – Many attorneys offer their services to their community for free as a form of community service. You may be able to find a private attorney willing to take your case for free.
  • Legal Aid Law Firms – Your state may fund several law firms, which allows them to offer legal services at no cost to the client.

Small Matters

Sometimes you need to appear in court after receiving a traffic ticket or another infraction. This is the only situation where it may be acceptable to defend yourself. The stakes for losing your case are the smallest in this situation, and it may simply not be worth the cost to hire an attorney. However, sometimes these cases may result in enormous fines or the loss of your driver’s license. If the stakes are high, you still should hire a criminal defense attorney in San Mateo, CA to represent you or at least speak with a legal professional.

Thanks to The Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and representing yourself.