Can you defend yourself in a criminal case?

Being charged with a criminal offense can be a stressful and potentially life-changing experience. You could be facing substantial fines, loss of your job, and even prison time depending upon the nature of the offense. Because attorneys can be expensive, many people consider not hiring one and defending themselves. The decision of whether to hire a lawyer can be complicated, but there are several important factors you should consider.

Do You Have to Hire an Attorney to Defend You?

The right to represent yourself “pro se”, or “for yourself”, in criminal court has been legally established. You will never be forced to represent yourself, however; if you can’t afford to hire an attorney, the court may provide you a public defender at no cost to you. However, just because you have a right to represent yourself does not mean that you should.

What Category of Criminal Offense Are You Charged With?

In Florida, crimes are generally categorized by their maximum penalty. Misdemeanor crimes can result in a sentence of up to one year in prison. Examples of misdemeanors include petty theft or disturbing the peace. Felonies are the most serious category of crimes. Conviction of felony crime can result in a prison sentence of more than one year. Felony crimes include armed robbery, drug trafficking, and assault with a deadly weapon. You should know the type of offense you are being charged with before making the decision to go pro se. If the maximum penalty for the offense is a small fine, you may decide that hiring an attorney is not worth the expense.

One the other hand, deciding to defend yourself in a felony case can be very risky since you can be sentenced to a long prison term if you are convicted. You should consult with a Miami criminal attorney to make sure you understand the type of criminal charge you are facing.

What Are the Benefits of Hiring an Attorney to Defend You?

The main benefit of hiring an attorney is that he or she has been trained and certified by the state bar in legal matters. Criminal law and procedure can be extremely complex and the prosecutors are experts in the field. In addition to knowing the laws, attorneys are trained in making and presenting arguments on your behalf. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side will give you the best chance of success.

What Are the Benefits of Representing Yourself?

The most obvious benefit of representing yourself is that you will not incur the cost of an attorney or have to accept a court-ordered one. Other benefits include the fact that you are the most familiar with your case and get to make the important decisions on your own, such as whether or not to accept a plea deal or call certain witnesses to testify at your trial.

The decision of whether to defend yourself in a criminal case is an important one that you should carefully consider. Because the stakes can be very high, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney, like Lawyer Stroleny, before deciding.