Self Representation in a Criminal Case 

If a judge determines that a defendant in a criminal case is competent to do so, they may give a criminal defendant the opportunity to represent themselves if that is what the defendant desires. If this is a situation that applies to you, it may not necessarily be in your best interest to represent yourself. A key to determining whether or not representing yourself in a criminal case is feasible is to look at the punishment you will face if you are convicted. The harsher a potential punishment can be, the more likely it is that having a lawyer representative may be more advantageous than if you choose to represent yourself.

Why a Defendant May Choose to Represent Themself

There are a variety of different reasons a criminal defendant may choose to represent themselves, and there are many different variations on these reasons that are dependant on an individual’s particular circumstances. Some of the reasons a criminal defendant may choose to represent themselves are:

– A defendant cannot afford to hire a lawyer and does not think that the public defender assigned to them will provide them with an adequate defense.

– A defendant can afford to hire a lawyer but does not see the likely punishment is harsh enough to justify the expense.

– A defendant is planning to plead guilty to an offense in a particular jurisdiction whose sentence on it never varies, a defendant may feel like a lawyer will not be able to change this.

– They have been poorly represented by an incompentent lawyer in the past and do not realize that the majority of lawyers that are qualified to represent people in the kind of case they were previously, poorly represented for, would have done a much better, if not excellent, job.

– A defendant wishes to make a political statement against the criminal justice system that lawyers are a part of because they see it as corrupt and oppressive.    

– If a defendant is awaiting trial in jail and they are representing themselves in their trial, they may gain privileges such as access to the jail’s law library.

– They wish to try to delay proceedings and make their case more complicated for what is likely, an already overloaded criminal court system. Even though this is looked upon as an unfair and unethical practice, self-represented defendants are not bound by the ethical codes lawyers are and may try to do this with such things as repeatedly filing motions.

The nature and the possible or probable punishment for a crime are big determining factors on whether or not it is feasible for someone to represent themselves. Lesser crimes such as minor traffic violations or shoplifting, may not necessarily warrant the need for a lawyer whereas  crimes such as, violent offenses and felonies, almost always warrant the need for one.

Learn more about criminal law information with the Best Federal Criminal Attorney.