When an individual is criminally charged, the law gives him the right to a lawyer or counsel. However, this includes the right to represent one’s self in the trial. Defending yourself in criminal cases may be a little bit odd, but it is possible, with the authorization of the judge concerned. This means, such right to self-representation although vested, is not automatic.
If you are charged with a crime and you stand trial for such, you will be given the right to an attorney or be assigned one if you will make a request and if you can validly show that you cannot afford to hire one. On the other hand, if you tell the judge that you will be defending yourself, the judge will have to hold a meeting where you need to answer questions to make sure that you fully understand what you are letting yourself into. You must understand that defending yourself in criminal cases is tantamount to waiving the right to counsel, which is a serious business.
Courts would like to ensure that criminal trials are objective and rational; hence, judges, in turn, would like to make sure that defending yourself in criminal cases is not something that you do haphazardly. The judge needs to know that you fully understand what you are asking, and you can convince him that you are capable of representing yourself on trial and understand the risks of not having a lawyer.
If the judge doubts your ability to represent yourself, he will either disallow you to act per se or appoint a lawyer to protect your rights, until your competency can be ascertained. This process may involve requiring you to undergo a psychological evaluation.
Defending yourself in criminal cases may make sense in some situations. In general, the severity of the punishment that a crime entails will have a lot to say whether you need to hire a lawyer to defend you or just represent yourself at trial; thus, the lighter the punishment, the more likely that self-representation is viable. For instance, if you are charged with shoplifting or some traffic offenses, you may survive the trial without hiring a lawyer. However, if you are charged with violent crimes such as murder, you should need to get the assistance of a legal counsel.
On the other hand, some crimes have punishments that may appear relatively negligible but have harsh consequences in the future. So, before deciding whether to hire a lawyer or self-represent yourself, you should first try to learn what the sentence is likely to be if ever you are convicted and its ramifications, later on, should you be arrested again for a similar crime in the future.
Learning about the typical sentences for specific crimes can be quite difficult. Court rules or statutes don’t usually list these common punishments. However, some states have “determinate sentencing laws”, which provide specific punishments for each crime. Depending on the circumstances involved, the judge may add or subtract a year or two from the punishment. If you are serious about defending yourself in criminal cases, it may be of great assistance to your cause if you will try to learn all about these typical punishments for crimes.