Being accused of a crime in San Diego can be a frightening experience; however, if the charges are relatively minor some people have the opposite reaction and don’t take the charges seriously at all. When this occurs, a defendant may feel that there is no need to hire an attorney to represent him or her. The “Do-It-Yourself”, or DIY, mentality has gained serious momentum in the United States over the past decade or so. While there are many things that a person can DIY, you should not represent yourself in a San Diego criminal prosecution.
There is no law or legal requirement that a defendant in a criminal prosecution be represented by an attorney. That, however, does not mean it is a good idea to proceed pro se, or self-represented. There are a number of good reasons why representing yourself is not a wise decision, including:
- Knowledge of the law – The internet cannot replace three years of law school. While a defendant can find most statutes and laws online, analyzing those laws and determining how they apply to a specific case requires formal legal training.
- Knowledge of procedure – Along with an in-depth knowledge of the law itself, a pro se defendant must understand the procedures used in court. The rules of criminal procedure will dictate everything from when and how to file a motion to what constitutes a hearsay statement. The best defense can fail if the individual presenting the defense is not familiar with the procedural rules.
- Resources – Resources can make or break a defense. As the defendant you may not have the time or money to interview all potential witnesses and perform independent examinations of evidence whereas an attorney has the resources to do everything necessary to present the best defense possible.
- Negotiating power – Most criminal cases are resolved without a trial through plea bargaining. If that is an option in your case you are not the best person to negotiate on your own behalf because you are emotionally involved in the case. In addition, the prosecuting attorney may take advantage of the fact that you are not familiar with negotiating a plea bargain and may not budge as much as he or she would with an attorney.
The bottom line is that it is not in your own best interests to represent yourself in a criminal prosecution in San Diego. Even if the charges seem minor, a conviction can follow you forever and may have unintended negative consequences beyond any punishment the court orders. For these reasons, at least consult with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney before you make the decision to represent yourself.