Thinking About Representing Yourself In Court? 2 Reasons To Reconsider

Being accused of committing a crime can be devastating, embarrassing, and incredibly expensive—especially if you suspect that you will be in court for a while. To keep expenses to a minimum, you might be thinking about representing yourself, or working pro se. Although the law states that you can act as your own attorney, most professionals agree that working pro se isn't a good idea if yours is a criminal case. Here are two reasons to reconsider representing yourself in court:

1: The Courtroom Won't Slow Down For You

You might not have a hard time following along with that complicated court case detailed on your favorite television show, but that doesn't mean that you are cut out for the courtroom. Unlike the judges in movies and television shows, who typically allow long, drawn out deliberations, testimonies, and unruly attorneys, real-life law professionals don't have time for any antics. Most judges get right down to business, running through the facts of the case, asking for explanations, and quickly going through the legal aspects of the accusations.

Unfortunately, if you decide to represent yourself, you will be held to the same standards that the other attorneys are held to. The judge and the other lawyer won't slow down to explain statutes to you or to talk about the way the court process works. Some judges can even be harsh on pro se litigants. For example, Judge Carol Berkman of New York rebuked pro se litigant Robert Camarano by telling him that he "didn't know how to offer things into evidence," and that he "kept making stupid speeches."

Although the judge handling your case might not be as blunt, you never know how the other lawyers and judge will respond to your decision to represent yourself. Do yourself a favor and hire a professional attorney who is familiar with the courtroom. In addition to having someone on your side that understands the law, you will have the opportunity to sit back and relax, without worrying about paperwork, notes, statements, and inpatient judges.  

2: You Might Make Things More Expensive

It might seem like representing yourself would help you to save thousands of dollars on legal fees, but what if your case ends up taking longer to prove or you lose altogether? If you represent yourself, you might end up with extra expenses such as:

  • Fines: It might seem tempting to argue with that judge or tell that other lawyer what you really think of their case, but if you are held in contempt of court, you could be fined or face jail time. 
  • Your Time: If you aren't familiar with the local laws or past settlements, you might spend hours outside of the courtroom learning about the law. However, your time is worth money, and spending a lot of extra energy researching your case could cause you to miss work.
  • Your Reputation: If you own your own company, representing yourself can also damage your reputation, which can cost you future business. For example, you might bring up subjects that you don't need to address, or drag out the process while neglecting your current customers.

Although it might seem expensive to hire a professional attorney, keep in mind that some lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they are paid from the proceeds of your settlement. For example, if you are accused of a crime that you didn't commit and you countersue for defamation, you would pay your lawyer with a percentage of your final settlement.

By doing the smart thing and working with a professional attorney (like those from Begley Carlin & Mandio LLP)  who practice criminal law, you might be able to expedite your case and prove your innocence.