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The Devastating Results of Representing Yourself in Court

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Written by John Marmolejo

Imagine that you’ve been arrested for a crime. You know that you have a right to legal counsel, but you, like 80% of people facing charges, cannot afford a lawyer. You decide to take your chances on representing yourself in court to save some money.

If this is your situation, this information could change your life. Lawyers are expensive, and representing yourself might seem like a way to save money, but it’s a bad idea. Keep reading here to find out why lawyers are necessary.

Lawyers Are Experts

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They have spent years in school learning about the legal system. They know what to say in court, how to speak to judges, and how to interpret the law. They know all about the processes in place. You don’t.

You have a right to legal expertise. You need a lawyer because they know things about your case that you are not trained to see or notice. They have spent their lives learning how to defend you.

There is no way you can meet all the requirements necessary to prove your own case.

Do you know when to object to something? When to file a motion? How to present opening and closing arguments? How to sway a jury? Probably not, but these are all things a lawyer can do almost effortlessly.

It is your lawyer’s job to know your rights and how to fight for you. Without a lawyer, you are fighting alone. You are not an expert. Your rights could be violated in court or infringed upon without you even knowing it. You need a lawyer on your side to prevent these things from happening.

You Are Emotional

Standing before a judge is scary, even to lawyers with years of experience. Imagine how much more intimidating a court can be to a person with no experience. Being nervous can have devastating consequences. You could say something self-incriminating.

You are too close to your case to argue it objectively. You could start making emotional arguments instead of arguing the facts of the case, which makes you less effective. You could forget your words. You could end up irritating the judge, which might affect the outcome of your case.

Often, you are in court trying to avoid some punishment. Your trial is not the time for your emotions, so it’s best to allow a lawyer to argue for you. One of the many benefits of a lawyer is that you don’t have to argue for yourself.

Courts Are Biased

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No, it shouldn’t happen. But often, judges and lawyers will be biased against you right away when they see you representing yourself in court. They understand how complex the legal process is. They see you as inexperienced- because you are- and will often treat you differently.

They know that you don’t have the legal knowledge or the vocabulary to be effective. They see you as one who makes the legal process even slower. How you appear in court matters because other people are making decisions about your life. The last thing you want to do is annoy the judge before you even start speaking.

Courts Have Rules and Procedures

There are courtroom rules that people without years of training would not know to follow. Breaking those rules could have devastating effects on the outcome of your case. The judge will not excuse you or give you a pass because you don’t know the law.

Your lawyer knows the rules. They know when to speak, when to stay silent, and when to ask questions.

Court Staff Will Not Help You

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The legal system works because each person handles his or her role in the process. Unfortunately, judges and court clerks don’t have the time to stop their work to assist you with your case. Often, they are not allowed to give you legal advice.

Some judges are kind enough to explain things, but that kindness is a courtesy. Judges are overworked and often impatient. When you stand before them, it is expected that you know what you are doing. Representing yourself means you are going at it alone with no coaching or help. This could be a costly mistake.

Court Cases Involve A Lot of Paperwork

Court proceedings require petitions, motions, and other forms and documents that have important deadlines. You’re most likely not equipped to keep up with all the paperwork and making sure it is filed in the right place on time. One incorrect or missing document can ruin your entire case.

A lawyer knows how to navigate the endless legal paperwork. They know how to keep everything together and how to present it when the time comes.

Attorneys Have Connections

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One of the benefits of an attorney is the connections that they have within the court systems. They know how to get priority in the busy court system, which could expedite your case. They know the clerks and judges and have already established rapport with them.

If you represent yourself, you walk into the court not knowing anyone or having anyone looking out for you. The connections that lawyers have can sometimes make all the difference in the outcome of your case.

Representing Yourself In Court is Costly

Sure, you might be saving some money by self-representation in court, but you might pay the price for your legal ignorance with jail time, fines, or other penalties.

Not knowing the legal system puts you at a disadvantage. There are consequences to losing your case. These consequences would have been avoided if you hired a lawyer instead of representing yourself.

Saving a few dollars on a lawyer is not worth paying the price with years of your life or thousands of dollars. Too much is at stake, and losing could be costly.

Though lawyers can be expensive, you don’t have to risk the devastating effects of representing yourself in court. There are options for you!

About the author

John Marmolejo