Influencing the Outcome
Too many defendants think they can represent themselves when facing criminal charges. If they can't afford an attorney, they may reason that they can do as good a job as a public defender and try to fight their charges alone. Even if they can afford an attorney, many opt for self-representation because they don't fully grasp the importance of skilled legal counsel. Unfortunately, a large percentage of those people suffer convictions they could have avoided. And many don't regret their decision to represent themselves until it's too late.
If you are thinking about representing yourself in your criminal case, I highly advise against it. But perhaps there is no better way to illustrate the importance of a competent criminal defense attorney than to go over five easy mistakes you could make that would cost you your case.
1. Tell Your Side of the Story
Despite our well-known right to remain silent when being interrogated by the police, many people make the mistake of opening their mouths when under arrest. They think by telling their side of the story, they can convince the police to let them go. In reality, once a police officer places you under arrest, you aren't going anywhere until you've been booked into holding, no matter what you say. I can't stress this enough. Your side of the story may seem logical to you, but to a police officer, your story is just evidence, plain and simple. It can and will be held against you in court. And even if you think your story is lock tight, chances are the prosecuting attorney will find something in it to hold against you. It's better to stay silent and have an attorney try to get you out of trouble after the fact.
2. Using Social Media
Facing criminal charges? Stay away from social media. Law enforcement and prosecutors are able to see what you post and subpoena the companies for records and copies. And don't think you can simply avoid posting about your charges. Anything you say can be held against you. For example, the prosecution can comb through your social media past to find evidence of your character or even prior run-ins with the law. Even if they are totally unrelated, it's best to avoid posting on social media until your case resolves or you speak with an attorney about what to say and what not to say.
3. Pleading Too Early
Most people assume you have two options when facing charges: plead guilty or go to trial. In reality, criminal cases aren't always resolved so cut and dry. In some cases, the defendant has a third choice: plead guilty to a lesser offense in a plea bargain. Plea bargains can work to the benefit of both the court and the defendant. They save everyone time and money and can quickly resolve cases. But if you plead guilty too early, you may miss out on this often-favorable third choice.
4. Not Defending Your Rights
You have rights even when facing criminal charges. Not protecting those rights and taking advantage of your constitutional protections isn't just lazy; it's risky. You should learn about search and seizure laws, probable cause, warrants, and rules of evidence. Ask yourself if were you stopped, searched, or arrested lawfully. Also, make sure whatever evidence was seized or statements were taken from you were obtained legally and in accordance with evidentiary rules. If any of your rights were violated, take steps to enforce them in your case or kiss your clean criminal record goodbye.
5. Not Speaking With an Attorney
Even if you are set on representing yourself to fight your charges, you should still consult with a criminal defense attorney in your area. A simple consultation can give you insight into the important elements of your case and how you can disprove them. An attorney can also give you an idea of what you are up against and what penalties the court can impose if you are convicted. Without this basic information, you won't be able to make informed decisions about how to handle your case. Many criminal defense attorneys in the Tulare area offer free or low-cost consultations. Never underestimate the value of legal knowledge, especially when facing criminal charges.
If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare area and are facing criminal charges, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you. California criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you face your charges so you can move on with your life. Attorney Martens has handled thousands of cases over a span of ten years of criminal defense practice and can fight hard for your rights. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for experienced criminal defense counsel today. Contact our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.