It seems like common sense that you would want a lawyer to represent you if you are charged with a crime. It is not for nothing that the Constitution provides a right to be represented by counsel in a criminal case. However, for a variety of reasons, many people seriously consider representing themselves. Some simply do not trust lawyers, others are concerned about the expense, and yet others feel that their case is a simple matter they can handle themselves. While these feelings can be valid, there are several strong reasons that legal DIY is not a good idea.
Before you are arrested
One common mistake people make when it comes to getting a lawyer is not realizing they need one. They believe that as long as they have not been arrested or charged they can get by on their own. The truth is that it is time to call a lawyer as soon as police officers start asking to talk to you. Do not assume that you will be told up front if you are a suspect. In fact, police officers are not obligated to disclose this. They will frequently tell you they just want to ask some questions when they are actually laying the ground for filing charges. A good attorney at your side can advise you as to the best course of action and ensure that you are maximally protected.
Another scenario where people often believe a lawyer is not necessary is when they are dealing with relatively minor charges. People who are being offered an ACD, probation or a small fine may believe that it is easier and cheaper to just accept that than to have a lawyer. There are a few reasons why this is not necessarily true. There are professions you may wish to enter in the future where even this slight blemish on your record can result in permanent exclusion. If you are not a U.S. citizen there may be immigration consequences. Information may also surface in the course of the case that can result in new or aggravated charges you did not foresee in the beginning.
Whether you are accused of a minor traffic infraction or of a serious crime, a mishandling of your case can have lifelong consequences. In addition to a deep substantive knowledge of applicable law, an experienced criminal defense attorney also knows the ins and outs of police and court procedure, which can play a significant role in the outcome of your case. Whether you are facing charges or are concerned about police questioning, the best thing to do is to speak with a qualified lawyer in your area.