Most people understand that criminal charges require a lawyer. They know that if someone is innocent, a lawyer is needed to help prove their innocence. They know that if someone is guilty, a lawyer can help avoid prosecution. However, what about if someone is guilty and wants to accept the charges, do they still need a lawyer?
The short answer is, it’s their choice. No law, mandate, or statute forces a defendant to obtain a lawyer against their wishes. However, this means that the defendant will represent themselves and, therefore, will be expected to speak and act as a lawyer in the courtroom. This expectation might seem trivial for those planning to plead guilty, but before anyone decides to take the path of self-representation, here are a few things worth considering.
What’s at stake?
The first question any defendant should ask and be able to answer for themselves before choosing self-representation is what’s at stake? If a lengthy prison sentence is on the horizon, it’s almost always better to have a lawyer. However, even those charges that might appear minor in comparison should still be thoroughly explored concerning the immediate and long term consequences of pleading guilty.
Although judges have the final say, lawyers are the best source of information in determining long term repercussions and typical sentences for specific charges. Nevertheless, you can gain this information from them through consultation without representation. Although all cases have some degree of chance when it comes to the outcome, self-representation can be more of a risk than its worth depending on what’s at stake.
Are your ready to speak, act, and think like a lawyer?
It is one thing to be expected to speak and act like a lawyer in the courtroom, but quite another to think like one? The entire reason lawyers exist is because they have more knowledge about the law, procedures, options, and the overall inner workings of our judicial system than an average citizen.
For an average citizen, attempting to navigate the judicial system can be so baffling and complex, that self-representation easily becomes overwhelming and unfair. It is no wonder that defendants who represent themselves, usually lose their cases. Even those that hunker down and study for months on end to represent themselves can’t compete with the time, investment, and experience lawyers gain from pursuing and consistently working in their profession.
Having someone in your corner with this kind of knowledge is usually beneficial even if a defendant is pleading guilty. Some lawyers may completely drop the ball on getting the best outcome for their clients, but this shouldn’t deter anyone from seeking adequate representation.
Can you work the system?
With the knowledge and experience lawyers have, they can maneuver through the system in ways that the average person can’t. They can:
- Explain the process and expectations for court procedures.
- Clarify, arrange, and negotiate plea deals.
- Make sure clients are fully aware of their rights.
- Make sure clients understand what rights they are giving up when they plead guilty.
- Make clients aware of other available pleas.
- Make accurate predictions about sentencing.
- File motions, interpret the law and compile evidence.
With all this in mind, even for those who want to plead guilty or represent themselves, it’s still a good idea to have legal counsel.
Decide what works for you
It’s easy to get the impression that our justice system is not fair, especially since adequate representation is costly. The reason many defendants plead guilty or choose to represent themselves is due to financial reasons. While it’s true that the knowledge, support, and assistance lawyers provide doesn’t come cheap, it’s worth every penny under the right circumstances. If you need direction or help to explore your options, contact us for a free consultation today.