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Can I Represent Myself in Court?

October 27, 2017 Criminal Law and Procedure

Yes, there is no court rule or law that says you need a lawyer to represent you in a criminal case.

However, there may be good reasons why you should have a lawyer represent you.

Lawyers are Trained in the Law

The law involves many rules of evidence, procedural rules, and statutory laws. Lawyers go to school to learn these and have to continuously study them throughout their careers. Your average Joe off the street will not be schooled in the same way, and would be at a disadvantage if they had to compete with a prosecutor who was trained in these rules.

For example, take your average driving under the influence of liquor case. You may not know that the preliminary breath test (PBT) that measures your blood alcohol level on the side of the road, is inadmissible in court. This means the fact that you took the PBT and the results from the test cannot be used in a DUI trial. If you didn’t know this, you might let the results slip out (which you didn’t have to do), or you might mistakenly formulate a strategy around the PBT results.

A Lawyer Can Help You Tell Your Story

Criminal defense lawyers are trained storytellers. That’s a big part of what a criminal trial is. It’s an opportunity to tell a story to a jury. Let’s say you’ve been charged with domestic assault or an assault and battery.

Your average assault and battery cases are he-said she-said cases. This means the only real evidence comes from the mouths of the two people involved. To win on a he-said she-said case, it is often helpful for the Defendant to take the stand and speak. It would be very difficult for you to tell your story in the best way possible if you’re up on the stand with no help in telling your story.

With a lawyer, the lawyer would help walk you through your story. The lawyer would make the story come out in a way that is digestible for the jury and told in the right sequence. On your own, it might be difficult to get the story out in the same way.

The Person Who Represents Himself Has a Fool For a Lawyer

This is the saying based on conventional wisdom that lawyers repeat whenever they hear that a lawyer wishes to represent himself in court. Even lawyers sometimes get the urge to represent themselves when they have to. Even though they are trained in the law, the lawyers have to be reminded that it is simply not a good idea to represent yourself in court.

It’s difficult to navigate the strategy and tactics of a case when you are not able to see the case objectively but only through the lens of your personal being. A lawyer can provide that step-away view to see the forest for the trees. When dealing with our own problems it is only too easy to get stuck in the trees and miss the forest.

Contact us

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Washtenaw County, MI, who writes self-serving but nonetheless helpful legal blog articles.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI.

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ArborYpsi Law Represents People Every Day Just Like You

ArborYpsi Law can help you with your criminal legal issues. Whether you’re being investigated for a crime, just been arrested, or have an upcoming court date, we can get involved and help. Don’t navigate this minefield on your own.

A criminal case truly is a big deal. It is the government bringing a lawsuit against you. And with that comes the power of the government. The effects of the case can have lifelong altering consequences. I don’t say this to be dramatic or to scare you in to hiring ArborYpsi Law, I say this because that is the reality. When charged with a crime you need someone in your corner who fights for their clients, who takes cases to trial, who has dedicated their life to helping people just like you.