When Does Self-Representation Make Sense in a Criminal Case?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Experienced New Mexico Criminal Law Attorneys Discuss Self-Representation

Criminal Law Judge's GavelA criminal defendant might wish to represent himself in a criminal trial for a variety of reasons. Whether it is to save on the costs of hiring an attorney or because they assume they have a handle on the law, it is still wise to consult with a defense law team in New Mexico.

Naturally, defending oneself from a traffic ticket could be done successfully without a defense attorney. However, any criminal charge that can result in jail time and high fees should have an attorney assigned to the case.

3 Reasons Why Self-Representation is Never a Good Idea

Can you legally represent yourself? Yes, the courts allow for pro se defendants. However, should you?

The answer to that is “no” if you were to consult any legal professional. These attorneys are not saying “no” just to get your money either. Instead, they are basing that answer off of years of legal experience, the depth of their legal knowledge – and witnessing defendants attempt to represent themselves in court fail miserably.

Therefore, if you are considering entering court on your trial date pro se, you might want to consider the reasons New Mexico criminal defense attorneys advise against it.

You Do Not Get a Second Chance

In a criminal trial, there are no “do-overs.”

While the appeal process does exist, you will not be granted an appeal simply because you chose to represent yourself. That is why – when a defendant wants to represent themselves – the judge will ask a detailed series of questions of that defendant, and they will get it all on record. These questions are designed to inform the defendant of the grave risk that he or she is taking when making the choice to go pro se. The judge wants to ensure that all of the risks were explained to the defendant, and that they  agreed to those risks on the record. Therefore, once you accept those risks – the outcome of your case is completely on you – and you will not be granted an appeal on that basis.

So the question is – If you are facing serious prison time, high fines, or other long-term consequences – do you want to risk it?

Even with the Knowledge, You Do Not Have the Experience

Very few people who have not gone to law school have a working knowledge of the law and how it applies, or doesn’t apply, in any given factual situation. While lay-people may think that they know the law, very often they interpret its meaning incorrectly, or apply it in a way that a judge would not accept. But even assuming that you actually do have a thorough, working knowledge of the law and the ability to use it properly to prove your case – that is not enough.

There is one important factor you are missing: experience.

Criminal defense attorneys not only have years of law school and internships, but also years in a live courtroom setting, defending people just like you. They know criminal procedure, and are trained in the complex rules of evidence. They know case law, they know how juries typically respond to varying forms of evidence, and they know the prosecutors and judges in the area. The value of this level of experience cannot be overstated, and it cannot be found in books.

You Will Not Save the Money You Think

If your main reason for representing yourself is money, then you may want to consider how much you are saving.

For example, you are charged with a misdemeanor that has a potential fine of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. You want to save the cost of an attorney by representing yourself because you know you are guilty and will pay fines. Did you know that an attorney can negotiate with the prosecution and shrink that fine amount – often paying for themselves?

An attorney is a valuable investment because they may be able to get fines significantly reduced, or sometimes they can negotiate a plea bargain that eliminates sentencing fines altogether.

There is No Risk to Meet with a NM Criminal Attorney

If you have been arrested for a crime, you have the right to consult with an attorney. More so, criminal defense lawyers offer free case evaluations, which means you do not pay to explore your options.

Before you represent yourself, meet with a lawyer from New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. We understand your concerns about hiring an attorney, and our team is here to put those concerns to rest and help you receive the most favorable outcome in your case.

Schedule a free, no-obligation case review by calling us at 505-375-4672 or ask our team a question online.