If you have recently been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska for the first time you undoubtedly have a number of questions and concerns. Having never been through the criminal process before, one of your first questions may be “ Should I represent myself ?” Ultimately, only you can make that decision; however, there are a number of important reasons why you may not wish to represent yourself even if you are only charged with a relatively minor offense. A few of those reasons include:
- Understanding of the law – while just about anyone can read a statute or find their actual charges in the documents given to them by the court, actually understanding the law is something altogether different. Often, a conviction hinges on how courts have interpreted a specific statute or an element in a statute over the years. Likewise, defenses have been tried and succeeded, or failed, over time. Knowing which ones have been successful is important. Therefore, simply knowing how to read a statute isn’t sufficient to provide you with adequate representation.
- Knowledge of the prosecutorial process – although the court will allow you to represent yourself without objection in all but the most serious offenses, the court will not usually give you any leniency when it comes to knowledge of procedures and processes. You will be expected to understand the Rules of Criminal Procedure just like a lawyer must. This alone can take hours to learn.
- Ability to negotiate – people often think that because they plan to plead guilty to the offense there is no reason to hire an attorney. Not all plea agreements are the same though because there is almost always room for negotiation. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows the state’s weaknesses as well as what the prosecutor will likely concede and what he/she will not likely give up. Therefore, an attorney knows how to negotiate the most advantageous plea agreement for a client.
- Repercussions of a conviction – like many people you may be considering representing yourself (going “pro se” in legal jargon) because the charges are minor and you think it isn’t a big deal if you are convicted. You may need to reassess that way of thinking though. In today’s electronic world any conviction will haunt you forever. Even a minor conviction could interfere with present or future employment, housing, student loans for college, even visitation with a minor child. A conviction often has far reaching negative consequences beyond those you realize. At a bare minimum you should consult with an attorney to ensure that you are aware of all the consequences of a conviction before proceeding solo.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.