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While every criminal case is different, there are some universals. For example, it's generally a bad idea to represent yourself in a criminal action. It's easy enough for criminal defense attorneys to simply say it's unwise to do. But explaining why it is a bad idea will help you make an informed decision about hiring an attorney. With that in mind, let's take a look at a few things you should know about defending yourself against criminal charges.
Although California legal blogs—like this one—and other legal information sites can provide you the information you need to understand your charges and the penalties you face, they cannot provide legal advice. Legal information and legal advice are two different things. Information is general and useful to everyone. Advice is specific and only useful to you. Only an attorney can give you personalized legal advice. And their advice is worth paying for in most cases.
You will be at a disadvantage if you defend yourself because you don't know the rules of the game. Not knowing how criminal courts operate and the rules and procedures you must follow can hurt your chance of a favorable outcome. And learning about all the protocol and procedures of criminal prosecutions while facing charges won't be as effective. It's best to be briefed on the entire process from day one. This can provide peace of mind, which—like legal advice— is well worth paying for.
You might not be up for a fight. Think you have a solid defense? Unless you're familiar with the criminal courts and have seen cases like yours go through them, it's hard to have real confidence in your defense. And if your defense doesn't work, what will you do? Trying multiple defenses is as good as pleading guilty. Every criminal defense should start with strategy. Criminal prosecutions are adversarial; it's you against the state in most cases. And that's a fight you should want to enlist help for.
People often overlook one of the most important roles an attorney can play: helping with your case. Until you've faced criminal charges, you may be unfamiliar with all the things you need to do if you want to fight your charges. Pleading guilty at your arraignment can be quick enough, but then you have to deal with the consequences, which can include jail time or community service. If you want to fight your charges, however, you will have a lot to keep track of future hearing dates, potential plea bargains, and even trial. Do you have time to contact the prosecuting attorney, subpoena evidence, speak with witnesses, negotiate a plea bargain, and research legal code? Most people don't. Remember, your time is valuable, and an attorney can handle some things for you so you can go to court less stressed and overwhelmed.
Now that you have a better idea of what an attorney can do for you, you can see the difficulties you will face if you represent yourself. You'll have to hit the books, do some research, develop a solid defense strategy, and handle all the mundane tasks as well. For most people who work full-time jobs or have families to take care of, trying to handle all this on your own make it all the easier to drop the ball and lose your case.
Consult with an attorney if you think you can represent yourself. An honest attorney will give you some basic information that can help you decide whether you can handle that on your own. Some people have the time and resources needed to dedicate themselves fully to fighting their criminal charges; others may find it a huge help to have an attorney represent them. In the end, the decision is yours, but you should consider all these factors before appearing in court without an attorney.
Facing criminal charges can be overwhelming, but experienced Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you navigate the process of defending your rights and clearing your name. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you build a strategic defense to fight your charges. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.