Michigan Court Explains the Right to Self-Representation in Criminal Matters

The Michigan Constitution and the United States Constitution afford criminal defendants many rights, including the right to counsel and the right to self-representation. While defendants are protected from harm caused by incompetent attorneys in that they can assert claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, if they choose to represent themselves, they waive the right to make such claims, as illustrated in a recent Michigan ruling issued in a murder case. If you are charged with a violent crime, such as murder, it is in your best interest to hire a capable Michigan criminal defense attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was involved in an altercation with the male and female victims, his neighbors, when he was at their home. He threw a full beer can at the female victim, which hit her in the face, and then left the property. The victims called 911, and after the police arrived, they observed the defendant breaking things in his apartment. He ultimately had to be subdued and sedated.

It is reported that after the defendant’s release from jail, he went on a rampage that ultimately resulted in the death of the male victim. He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, assault and battery, and numerous other crimes. A jury convicted him following a trial during which he represented himself with standby counsel. He appealed, arguing he was entitled to a reversal due to ineffective assistance of counsel.

The Right to Self-Representation

On appeal, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction. In doing so, it explained that the defendant waived his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel by choosing to represent himself. The court elaborated that the Michigan Constitution and the United States Constitution both grant criminal defendants the right to represent themselves. While the right to self-representation is not explicit in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the right to personally defend oneself is implied by the statutory language. The Michigan Constitution expressly grants such rights.

The court noted, though, that in order to assert the right of self-representation, a defendant has to waive the right to counsel and must do so intelligently and knowingly, with adequate awareness of the relevant circumstances. In the subject case, the defendant did not argue that his waiver of the right to counsel was invalid; instead, he asserted that his decision to represent himself with standby counsel should be treated as if he had an appointed attorney. The court disagreed, noting that a defendant has the right to counsel or to represent himself but not the right to both. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s convictions.

Confer with an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Although criminal defendants have the right to represent themselves, they generally should not exercise that right as it often leads to unfavorable results. If you are accused of a violent crime, it is wise to confer with an attorney as soon as possible. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer with the skills and resources needed to help you seek a good outcome, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a meeting.

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