If you’ve been charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to hire a criminal defense attorney. With rare exception, all criminal defendants are represented by criminal defense lawyers (or public defenders), especially when there is the possibility of going to jail or prison.
The alternative to hiring a criminal defense lawyer — self representation — is exceedingly rare and all but impossible for the average citizen to competently handle. While no official statistics are available, the best estimate of the percentage of people who choose self representation is well under 1%.
What Self Representation Really Means
As with so many things in the age of the internet, there are those who believe that they can acquire enough information about the law via books, papers, and online content.
While it’s true that there is plenty of information about the law available, understanding the law and practicing it are very different things. Think of it as the difference between reading about how to ride a bicycle, and actually getting on a bike for the first time and trying to ride. Understanding the concepts of law does not equate to practical experience.
What many defendants don’t know, and what a competent criminal defense lawyer will help them understand, is that a defendant’s case is driven almost entirely by the lawyer prosecuting the case, not the defense attorney.
Understanding legal strategy, communicating with court and other various legal officials, and drafting legal documents are usually far beyond the abilities of average citizens to accomplish on their own.
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Why You Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer
A good criminal defense lawyer will do much more than simply questions witnesses in court, they will also:
- Negotiate with prosecutors, which can result in reduced charges and lesser sentences.
- Help defendants cope with feeling of fear, embarrassment, and anxiety that often come with being charged with a crime.
- Help defendants understand important legal rules that are often hidden away or are deliberately obscure.
- Familiarize defendants with local court customs and procedures that are not written down or documented anywhere and may have a big impact on their case.
- Hire and manage investigators who may be able to impeach the prosecution’s witnesses, making them less believable in court.
- Spend time on a case that someone representing themselves likely won’t have available to them, especially if they’re trying to manage their case while maintaining a job.
The truth is, no matter how smart or well educated you may be, the modern criminal justice system makes it near impossible for you to do a competent job of representing yourself.
Every criminal case is unique, and only an experienced criminal defense lawyer is capable of understanding, assessing, and taking action on the particulars of a defendant’s case.