Were you recently arrested and charged with committing a criminal offense? If so, and you are contemplating acting as your own lawyer, you are probably making a big mistake. You may think the charges aren’t really that serious or that you can’t afford an attorney. Whatever the reason you have for deciding not to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, you really should re-evaluate that decision. To help you understand why representing yourself could be such a bad idea, a Nebraska criminal defense lawyer offers five reasons you should never be your own defense lawyer.
- There may be more at stake that you know. It is easy enough to look up the potential judicial penalties for conviction of a specific offense; however, that is not always the end of the story. The penalties you may face for a conviction also typically include non-judicial penalties as well. Furthermore, there may be more to the judicial penalties than you realize. For example, if you are convicted of driving under the influence and are sentenced to a term of probation, the judge may impose a number of special conditions that must be completed while on probation. Those conditions may be costly and time-consuming. In addition, your insurance rates will almost certainly increase, you could face professional discipline, you might be disqualified to apply for a change of status if you are not a U.S. citizen, and it could even interfere with custody or visitation with minor children.
- Your lack of experience makes you easy prey for the prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney may act like he/she just wants to help you out and resolve your case as quickly as possible for your benefit; however, the reality is that it is his/her job to secure as many convictions as possible. The prosecutor is not your friend. On the contrary, he/she will take advantage of your naivete.
- You may have a defense that could prevent a conviction. Not all defendants have a viable defense, but then they are not required to prove that they are innocent. It is the prosecutor’s burden to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, the job of a criminal defense attorney is often focused more on finding the flaws in the State’s evidence and argument than on developing a defense. An attorney has spent years in school and in practice learning how to identify and exploit the flaws in the State’s case and how to present a winning defense if necessary.
- You are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to negotiating the terms of a plea agreement. Obviously, the primary objective of any criminal defense attorney is to avoid a conviction altogether; however, sometimes a conviction is unavoidable. When that is the case, the focus shifts to negotiate a guilty plea agreement that is as advantageous to the defendant as possible. A prosecuting attorney knows that a defendant does not have the experience or skills to negotiate an agreement without an attorney, so why would the prosecutor bother negotiating any of the terms? An experienced defense attorney, on the other hand, can find the leverage needed to negotiate on your behalf.
- The judge will expect you to know both the law and the rules. A judge cannot force a defendant to hire an attorney in a criminal case; however, the judge can expect a pro se (self-represented) defendant to understand the relevant laws as well abide by the court rules and procedures. That means you must be aware of deadlines, discovery rules, and courtroom procedures. As a layperson, there is no reason you would already know any of this. Trying to learn all of it while also worrying about the outcome of your case is too much for most defendants.
Contact a Nebraska Criminal Defense Lawyer at Petersen Law Office
If you have been accused of committing a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense lawyer immediately about the specific facts and circumstances of your case. Contact a Nebraska criminal defense attorney at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case.