CONSIDERING REPRESENTING YOURSELF IN COURT? READ THIS FIRST!
Dec. 12, 2017
You’ve been arrested for a drug charge and now have a vital decision to make – hire a lawyer, or show up to the courtroom and handle it yourself.
While this is a decision that is available to everyone by law, it is extremely ill-advised for almost anyone to represent themselves. It requires more schooling than most professions to become a lawyer, so to assume you can surpass years of training and be successful in court is a longshot to put it mildly. Learn more about the uphill battle you’ll face if you go to court yourself.
Know when To Hire an Expert
To the layman, it might be easy to think of representing yourself in a court case as easy, or to have thoughts like, “hey if they can do it, how hard can it be?!” The answer is it can be very hard, and a loss may land you in jail with a permanent record.
Lawyers are experts at knowing the law, mastering the intricacies of the courtroom, and using terminology that is meaningful to the judge and jury. Furthermore, lawyers hone their craft by working many hours each week, often including weekends and nights. Long story short, to think that your performance and strategy in court can compete with a lawyer’s is unlikely at best. Here are some points to consider before representing yourself in court:
If your house needed rewiring, would you assume you could do it or hire an expert?
If you approached a building that was on fire, could you put it out yourself?
If you had to sell your own house would you seek an experienced agent?
The point of those questions is to highlight one thing – there is significance in being an expert and hiring professional help when you need it. Arguing a case in court is a demanding process that requires deep familiarity with the laws of the area.
Who Might Be Successful at Arguing a Case Themselves
Although it’s typically ill-advised to represent yourself in court, it’s not impossible. If you have the following traits or conditions on your side, you may stand a better than average chance at success in the courtroom:
Do you have winning evidence on your side?
If you’re representing yourself because you know you’re right and have the documents or witnesses to prove it, then you may be in an ideal position to handle your own court case. It’s important to note that there’s still the matter of timing, strategy, and knowing when to most effectively bring up your evidence. Also note that there’s a lot that can happen during a court case, so don’t put too much stock into any one witness or piece of evidence.
Are you great at speaking in public?
Did you know that public speaking is the most common fear people have? Not many people enjoy speaking in front of a crowd of people, but if you represent yourself in court, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. Not only will you be speaking about the argument that you planned out, but you’ll be put on the spot and required to interact the judge, rival attorney, and witnesses.
Do you have superior organization skills?
Prepping for a court case involves deadlines and many types of important paperwork. We all know how good we are at being on time – the Texas court waits for no one, so meeting the judge’s deadlines must become a top priority, even over everything else in your life. Plus, if the idea of sorting through stacks of paperwork and keeping track of various important documents is intimidating, then you might be over your head when arguing a court case.
Will you spend many hours in the library learning law?
Presenting your case in court isn’t like giving a speech in your college class – it’s an extremely formal and regimented process that must be treated with absolute seriousness by everyone involved. It’s assumed that everyone who is arguing in court has a mastery of the corresponding laws of that area. If you’re not a lawyer who’s spent many years studying in law school, then that means cramming in the library or online to learn as much as possible before your court date.
Data on Pro Se Cases
The term for representing yourself in court is pro se, which is latin for “for yourself.” The trouble with cut and dry stats for pro se cases is that thousands of cases are argued across thousands of jurisdictions on a daily basis. However, some statistics are known about pro se cases, and they may help you make the decision of whether that’s the path that’s appropriate for you.
In 2013, 27% of Federal Court cases were filed by Pro Se litigants.
A 2011 survey of judges showed the following information:
Pitfalls to Avoid for Pro Se Cases
Either way you look at it, arguing a case in court is a challenging and meticulous process, especially for non-attorneys. If you’re still motivated to go to court alone, then here are some common mistakes to avoid:
Failing to file the proper paperwork
Annotating the wrong information on court documents
Freezing in the face of questions or being challenged in court
Missing deadlines for filing documents
Failing to obey the judge
Difficulty managing the formal structure of the courtroom
Problems staying calm in a tense court setting
If you Decide to Hire Representation, Choose Phillip A. Linder
A court case is nothing to take lightly. You may be confident in your ability to represent yourself, but it’s important to consider the brevity of the situation. You could be gambling with valuable years of your life and freedom. If your crime happened in Texas, there’s no better choice for representation than Phillip A. Linder. With over 25 years experience with Texas law, no one stands a better chance at getting you a desirable outcome. Contact our office for a consultation.