Self-representation is sometimes a good idea. Traffic court is a good example. Traffic court judges are usually accustomed to people who handle their own cases. Furthermore, even if the case goes sideways, the worst possible outcome is usually a large fine.
Of course, if the case is legally complex, you should have an attorney. For example, there may be some defenses that you did not see, or the case may involve warrants for failure to appear in court.
Misdemeanors, felonies, and other serious criminal cases are always complex. There are also many more official rules to follow in criminal court. If you represent yourself, you must know all of them. Additionally, prosecutors and criminal court judges are used to working with other lawyers. So, they speak Legalese and are not always patient with pro se litigants.
Some Things to Know if you Represent Yourself
Regardless of the venue, it is always important to make a good first impression on the judge. That’s important for lawyers and non-lawyers alike.
Avoid the “deer in the headlights” look at all costs. Even if you do not know what you are doing, act like you know what you are doing. Never be late, never slouch, and always dress nicely. If you have questions, ask another lawyer. They are usually willing to help out.
It is also important to do your homework. Before your initial court date, spend a day observing the judge and how the judge conducts business. Also, if you are in criminal court, be familiar with the elements of the offense in the Penal Code and the relevant portions in the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Most criminal cases settle out of court. When the prosecutor makes a settlement offer, do not be afraid to say you need to think about it. Do not be rushed or bullied into anything.
When Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you begin by representing yourself, you do not have to go the distance alone. When you feel like you are over your head, hire an attorney. Or, ask the judge to appoint one.
If the case involves an adverse hearing, like an evidence review or a trial, you almost certainly need a lawyer. Other times, you get the feeling that you may have bitten off more than you can chew. Even lawyers get that feeling sometimes. If that happens to you, reach out to an attorney straightaway. The longer you wait, the more complex the situation may become.
Representing yourself is generally, but not always, a bad idea. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Parker County and nearby jurisdictions.