Why do I need a lawyer just because I am charged with a crime? I can read, I know how to speak, and I’m able to understand what is said in Court. I can represent myself. So says you! In the United States you have the right to remain silent when you are charged with a criminal offense. When you represent yourself you give up that right, and anything you do or say can, and more than likely will, be used against you by the jury. Representing yourself in court ‘pro se’ is a lot like going out into the rain without an umbrella. It puts you in the position of the lawyer you should have, as you are expected to know the law, the Rules of Court, and the Rules of Evidence. The Judge is not there to advise you of the law, and the prosecutor is trying to convict you – not acquit you. You essentially go at it alone when representing yourself in court as your own legal defense team. If you are convicted, you retain the right to file an appeal. However, you lose the right to file one of the most important types of collateral review, post-conviction relief, since you cannot claim that the representation of a lawyer was ‘ineffective’ since you did not have a lawyer. Although you acted as a lawyer, keyword here is “acted” in that you did not pass the bar and therefore you’re not legally a lawyer. Get it? Before you decide to go it alone, make sure you understand not just what goes into representing a client charged with a criminal act, but also the sentencing consequences and options. Once you are convicted, it is too late to change your mind and get a lawyer to protect your rights, and your freedom.
SPECIALIZING IN CRIMINAL DEFENSE THROUGHOUT NEW JERSEY
Howard W. Bailey, Esq.
550 Broad Street, Suite 601
Newark, NJ 07102