5 Reasons You Should Never Represent Yourself During Criminal Trial

What should you do if you’re charged with a criminal offense like a domestic assault? While hiring a criminal defense attorney is the best move, self-representation is also an option. But it’s unwise to represent yourself -- essentially serving as your own lawyer -- when facing serious charges.

Popular crime dramas have glamorized self-representation, but that’s make-believe and best left to the small or big screen. You need to make real-life decisions when the stakes are high. When liberty, financial well-being, and reputation hang in the balance, you need a good lawyer.

Your odds of beating the charges or reducing your punishment will increase with the right criminal defense attorney. Keep reading to see five reasons you should never represent yourself.

  1. What You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You

What you say could jeopardize your case. That’s one reason to skip the self-representation option. Most people who choose to represent themselves rather than hire legal counsel don’t have the legal know-how to do themselves justice. While seeking to build a solid case, you might say things that jeopardize your position. 

Do you want your words to hurt rather than help you? Obviously, no. But if you use the wrong words or communicate ambiguously, the prosecutor might pick your argument apart.

  1. You Could Get Caught Up in the Moment and Argue From Emotion

Experienced criminal defense attorneys work well under pressure, which is required if you want someone who can make a persuasive argument in your defense. One of the worst things you can do is get caught up in emotion. It is, after all, hard to see clearly and argue intelligently when on an emotional high. But you’ll have difficulty keeping your emotions in check if you represent yourself in court. The prosecutor will know how to press your buttons to get you to respond in a way that makes the wrong impression on the judge and jury.

  1. You Might Not Understand Courtroom Etiquette 

Yet another way self-representation could make matters worse for yourself is by breaking courtroom etiquette. You can be sure that lawyers and other courtroom staff know the dos and don’ts of being in a courtroom, but you likely won’t know the written and unwritten rules.

It’s best to hire a criminal defense lawyer who understands how trials proceed and what things to do and not do. Your lawyer will also advise you on how to behave in the courtroom.

  1. No One Will Hold Your Hand

Don't expect the judge or court clerks to hold your hand. You have the right to represent yourself, But if you run into difficulties, there'll be no recesses called to give you advice on the fly.

  1. The Risk Isn’t Worth It

Yet another reason you should represent yourself during a criminal trial is that the risk isn't worth it. When facing criminal charges carrying possible jail terms or fines, you don’t want to lower your odds of a good outcome. Self-representation isn't the way to go about it. Again, it might work in TV programs or movies, but that's just for your entertainment. Don't roll the dice when your liberty, reputation, and livelihood are at stake.

Hiring a Lawyer Makes Sense

If facing charges of a criminal nature, hire a criminal defense attorney who can provide expert legal counsel. You need to know what you’re up against, learn about the options, find out about potential outcomes, and get help reaching a settlement or fighting the charges in court. Self-representation is your right, but it isn’t in your best interests. Your best bet is to give yourself the best chance of beating the charges. And that means hiring a lawyer.

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