Should I Represent Myself in Court?
If you have ever seen the movie Good Will Hunting, you may recall a scene where the main character, Will, represents himself brilliantly in criminal court. A genius with a photographic memory, he dazzles the judge with a recitation of an archaic case that, in theory, supports the dismissal of the charges against him.
You may also remember that, for all his brain power, Will loses the case and is only released due to the intervention of a math professor who arranges for deferred prosecution if Will sees a therapist and complies with other requirements. It seems that even geniuses need assistance when it comes to defending their rights in court.
This is obviously a fictional example of a criminal case, but it’s a good illustration of just how complex and fast-paced the justice system can be. If you’re facing fines, the loss of your freedom, and possibly a permanent criminal record, do you really want to take a chance? There is a reason why the website of the Indiana Supreme Court – not to mention nearly every lower court in the state – strongly urges people not to represent themselves.
The Right to Counsel
The right to “assistance of counsel” is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. What you may not know is that the right to an attorney also guarantees citizens the right to go without one. In other words, you have the right to represent yourself if you choose. If you decide to represent yourself, the correct legal term for this arrangement is pro se.
In some cases, however, the judge has the authority to deny an individual’s right to proceed pro se. For example, the judge may determine that a person lacks the mental capacity to act as his own attorney. If the judge doubts a person’s mental, emotional, or physical stability, he may require the individual to undergo a mental health evaluation. In very serious cases, where the potential penalties are severe, the judge may even hold a separate hearing solely on the issue of the person’s capacity and decision to act pro se.
If you choose to represent yourself, it’s important to understand that you are held to the exact same standards as a lawyer. This means you must observe courtroom etiquette, comply with all the rules of evidence, and respect the court’s authority. Criminal trials can be extremely complicated. Even relatively straightforward things like knowing when it’s your turn to speak can be intimidating for someone who has never stepped inside a courtroom. What you see on television is just a small representation of reality.
Experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense
Your future is important. Don’t wait – speak to a criminal defense attorney today. Call me at 317-983-5333 for a free consultation.
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