Can I Represent Myself In Court?
One question that lawyers are often asked by potential clients is whether or not it is feasible or a good idea to represent oneself in a court case. The answer to this question is almost always ‘no’, however there are some cases where self representation is acceptable.
The only time when you would want to represent yourself in court is when the potential negative outcome of the case is relatively harmless such as going to court for a traffic ticket or small claims. Once you have a case with potentially high costs both to your life, such as a criminal case, or to your wallet, such as a civil case, you will want to be represented by a legal professional.
Your lawyer will view your case as an objective 3rd party and be able to analyze the details of the case without the personal attachment that comes along with being a part of the details, which is often a major issue with self representation. No matter how hard an individual tries to objectively look at a case involving themselves, human nature dictates that they will still have a subjective view of the details surrounding the case. Often times individuals representing themselves will view certain aspects of their case as ‘small’ because of their subjective experience but will find themselves caught off guard when the opposition’s legal counsel and the judge view the details in a different light.
Another major issue with representing yourself in court is that there is a mountain of procedural standards and legal processes that must be conformed to that will be extremely difficult to properly adhere to without the legal education that lawyers have. For instance, filing motions and responding to motions may sound relatively simple, but in practice there are a number of technical forms and steps that must be executed to properly file or respond legal motions. Processes like ‘discovery’ and the admissibility of evidence in court are also areas where a self representing ‘lawyer’ could make easy mistakes resulting in dire consequences.
If you are going into a civil case with a lot at stake, there is an almost certain chance that your opponent will be represented by legal counsel. Their legal counsel will have years of experience in court and know the nuances of the exact type of law that your case will be about. In some situations they may even know the nuances of the judge presiding over the case. This will undoubtedly put you at an extreme disadvantage which may cost you significantly more than what it would have cost to hire a good attorney.
Criminal cases should never be self-represented as a mistake in any part of the procedural process could result in you going to jail. If you are unable to afford an attorney, you will still be granted legal representation by a public defender who will be well versed in the procedural nuances of legal defense. Remember, there is a good reason that the saying ‘a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client’ exists.