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Reasons You Should Not Represent Yourself In Court
Posted on October 21, 2020
Statistics show that self-representation cases are typically lost…and for a good reason. Lawyers spend years studying the law and know the ins and outs of the courts and everyone involved. This knowledge comes with time and experience, something the average person has little understanding of. If you have a case and are considering self-representation, here are the four main reasons you should reconsider. Hiring a defence lawyer to represent you is always your best course of action, especially in a criminal case.
Lack Of Knowledge
The average person may only know law through the lens of dramatized TV shows. There are many applications and rules of procedure that most people are not familiar with and likely would not advance properly own their own. Law is complicated, and even if you feel you know your case well, that does not mean you have the experience to defend it well in court.
Sentences are imposed in several ways, and, as a self-represented litigant, you will have to do a lot of studying beforehand. As a self-represented litigant, you must know and follow court rules and procedures. Just because you are not familiar with the court does not mean the judge will go easy on you. You cannot ask the judge for help in the middle of a trial.
Understanding The Rules Of The Court
You likely do not know the rules of evidence, the process for interviewing a testifying witness, contested motions, or how to present an opening and closing argument. Self-represented litigants will also lack knowledge in exploring other avenues that may advance the case. Defence lawyers have prior experience dealing with other lawyers, police officers, prosecutors, judges, and juries.
As a self-represented litigant, you may only focus on one area or detail without thinking of different ways to frame and navigate the case. A defence lawyer has spent years studying the law and will have the skills and knowledge to explore other strategies.
Another factor to consider is that your opposing side will probably have a lawyer with specialized knowledge who will target your weaknesses. Self-representation may seem cheaper than working with a criminal defence lawyer, but the chances of the case going in your favour are slim.
Weak Emotional Arguments
Whether this is your first time in court or not, you are bound to feel nervous and anxious throughout the process. Depending on your case, it may take months or even years to finish. Prolonged stress can negatively affect your mental and physical health.
Self-representation means that even while under pressure, you must stay objective and not get emotional. Many self-represented litigants forget to examine and attack the evidence, in part because they become defensive over feelings of being attacked or information being misrepresented by the prosecutor. This often creates a weak argument overall and is not an advisable trial strategy.
Everything Is Scrutinized
It is not just emotional statements, but your every word and move are being watched in court. Non-verbal cues will also be scrutinized and can negatively affect your case. A defence lawyer will stay calm and level-headed throughout the process. They can also advise on how to help you manage emotions and teach you how to present yourself in court.
Lawyers have been trained to keep their work and emotions separate, focusing only on the case at hand. When you are alone, the last thing you want to do is say or do something you didn’t mean to and cause the judge to become irritated.
Potential Self Incrimination
Because of a lack of knowledge, you may end up saying something you believe will help your case when it won’t. An incriminating statement is any statement where the person increases their likelihood of being accused, charged, or prosecuted. You may state a fact you believe will support your case but is not a legal defence. Incorrectly presenting information could cause you to incriminate yourself and be the reason you lose your case.
Others Can’t Help You
Judge and court staff cannot help you throughout the process. Court clerks manage court records and provide information, but they are prohibited from filling out forms, giving case evaluation, or any strategy. There will be many forms to sign, paperwork to fill out, and documents to submit. When you are not familiar with these papers, it is easy to lose track of them, and even a minor mistake could wreak havoc on your case.
Judges will explain your rights, but they, along with court staff, are prohibited from providing you legal advice. This means you will need to do a lot of studying beforehand, and it can quickly become overwhelming and isolating to handle your case on your own.
If you are going to court, it is not worth the risk to do it alone, and you don’t have to. It would be virtually impossible for someone who has little previous law knowledge to prepare themselves before the court date. There are many fields of law, which all require in-depth comprehension. Criminal defence lawyers have dedicated their lives to studying the law and working closely with their clients to work towards the best outcome. When you’re considering your future, putting your case in the hands of experienced and qualified defence lawyers is essential.
Are you looking to be represented by a lawyer? Contact Ross Lutz Barristers to request a consultation and get in contact with a qualified criminal defence lawyer today.