Under both the Michigan and United States Constitutions, criminal defendants have the right to represent themselves at trial. Exercising the right of self-representation is not as simple as a criminal defendant merely stating that they would prefer to proceed without an attorney, however. Instead, the court must establish the requirements set forth under statutory and case law to ensure that the waiver of the right to counsel is knowing and voluntary. If the requirements are not met, the court has an obligation to deny a defendant’s request to represent themselves. This was demonstrated in a recent Michigan ruling issued in a matter in which the defendant was charged with multiple offenses, including murder and assault. If you are accused of a crime, it is in your best interest to confer with a Michigan criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.
The Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant and a female friend were consuming alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana at his apartment. The defendant stated he wanted to tie the woman up and beat and rape her. She left and went to the first floor of the apartment building, and the defendant grabbed his gun and followed her. He ultimately shot two female residents who were standing in the hallway. They subsequently died due to their injuries.
Allegedly, the defendant was charged with second-degree murder, assault, and numerous other felonies. He was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court violated his right to represent himself at trial.
The Right to Self-Representation
Under the Michigan and United States Constitutions, criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to self-representation. The right is not absolute, however. Rather, there is a presumption against the waiver of the right to counsel, and Michigan courts have strict criteria that must be met before a criminal defendant will be permitted to waive the right to an attorney.
The court explained that when a defendant sets forth an initial request to represent themselves, the trial court must assess whether the request is unequivocal and whether the defendant is asserting the right intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily, which can be determined via a colloquy informing them of the dangers of self-representation. Further, the court must find that the defendant’s self-representation will not unduly inconvenience, burden, or disrupt the court or the administration of its business. In the subject case, the defendant stated he wanted to represent himself at the pretrial conference, but after the judge advised against it, he dropped the issue. Thus, the appellate court found his rights were not violated.
Speak to a Trusted Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
People charged with criminal offenses have the right to be represented by an attorney, and in most instances, it is in their best interest to exercise that right. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a trusted Michigan criminal defense lawyer, and if you are charged with a crime, he can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal result available under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a meeting.