This morning I met with a client who was charged with a Domestic Battery against his wife last weekend. He and his wife have been going through some marital problems for several months which led to a very heated argument over the weekend. At the end of the argument, my client left the house to go for a ride in his car. After a couple of hours, he received a police a phone call from the local police asking him to return to the home so they can talk to him. When he arrived at his house, he found out that his wife had called 911 to report that she was a victim of Domestic Violence at the hands of my client. She told the police that when she tried to call the police my client fled from the residence in his car. My client insists that these allegations are false. My client’s wife obtained an Order of Protection and my client is not allowed to return to his house nor have any contact with his children. The client was very upset and was complaining that he should not have to hire a lawyer because he is innocent. This attitude by criminal defendants is very common. You need to understand how important it is that you have an experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyer by your side if you are being charged with a criminal offense. Let me explain why.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives you the right to have a lawyer represent you whenever you are facing criminal charges. The Sixth Amendment also gives you the right to the lawyer of your choice, even if that means that you want to be your own lawyer. It’s important to understand what representing yourself means. Representing yourself means that you have the right to act as your own lawyer. It’s important to understand that if you exercise your Sixth Amendment right to represent yourself, you will be held to the same standards as any lawyer would. The prosecutor is a lawyer. Many prosecutors are highly experienced lawyers. Most prosecutors are in court all day, and have handled countless criminal cases. They have a law degree, passed a Bar Exam, a law license, and have the necessary knowledge and experience required of any lawyer who handles criminal cases. Most criminal defendants that represent themselves do not have the education, knowledge, and experience that the prosecutor has. If you choose to represent yourself, you should be aware of the obstacles you will face and how you are probably out of your league by taking on an experienced prosecutor. Do not think that because you are not a lawyer that the judge will cut you a break and not hold you to the same standards as any lawyer appearing in Court. You should not expect the Judge to help you or guide you through the process. You will be expected to know what you are doing and you will not be helped because you are not a lawyer. If you lose the case, you cannot get a new trial because you didn’t know what you were doing.
Your guilt or innocence will be determined by the judge or jury. The prosecution has the burden of proving you guilty Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. This means that the State has the burden of proving that every element of the crime that you are charged with has been proven by the state beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge or jury are not convinced of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you will be found not guilty of the criminal charges. Your job is to create reasonable doubt in the State’s case by challenging their evidence and their witnesses. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows how to do this because they’ve done it before. If you’ve never done it before, trying to defend yourself in court can be an uphill battle. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyer knows the laws and the Rules of Evidence which governs how evidence can be introduced in Court. If the prosecutor tries to introduce evidence that is not admissible in court, your lawyer will know to object and prevent the evidence from being introduced and admitted into evidence. If you fail to object, not only does the evidence come in, but you will lose your right to appeal because you never raised the objection. It is not an excuse to claim that you are not a lawyer. While every case is different, the basic principles in our criminal laws apply to all criminal cases. The Rules of Evidence govern the admissibility and exclusion of evidence. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer understands with the principles of our criminal laws are and knows what the Rules of Evidence are.