Self-representation: Just don’t do it

Self-representation in criminal cases comes with several disadvantages and can leave people on the losing end.

People in Tennessee and Georgia often have an independent spirit and a can-do attitude. This may influence them to think that they can represent themselves in a criminal matter, but they just should not do it. Acting as their own legal counsel can leave them greatly disadvantaged in several ways.

Lack of education

One of the biggest reasons why people should not try to run their own defense strategy is that they do not have the legal training to do so. According to the American Bar Association, they should remember that they are going up against a prosecutor who spent at least three years studying the law in a formal institution. As such, prosecutors have a deep understanding of how the criminal justice system works as well as the state and federal laws that apply. They also have amassed extensive experience in the courtroom, developing the skills needed to obtain convictions.

On the other side of things, a defense attorney is familiar with the tactics used by prosecutors. Defense attorneys also often have established working relationships with prosecutors and judges, which can help them negotiate a better deal than someone who is not an attorney.

Emotional involvement

Criminal defense cases require the ability to analyze the situation and make decisions. However, someone charged with committing a sex offense is going to be emotionally involved. After all, under Tennessee law, a charge such as assault with intent to commit or attempt to commit rape comes with a prison sentence of up to 10 years while a charge concerning the rape of a child presents a sentence of at least 25 years.

People acting as their own legal counsel could become so focused on the person making the claims that they fail to identify flaws in the prosecution's case or overlook important evidence that could help establish their innocence. A criminal defense attorney can look at the factors of the case in an objective way and create a plan that focuses on obtaining the best possible result, whether that is to create reasonable doubt leading to a not guilty verdict, or get the criminal charges and penalties reduced.

Knowledge of the court process

Many people think they know all about the criminal justice system because they watch criminal shows on TV. However, it is important for them to understand that these cases often gloss over the numerous deadlines, court filings and the administrative process. This can leave them overwhelmed when they have to remember when their evidence needs to be submitted to the court, the proper form to use for a motion to reschedule a hearing or the different rules that they need to abide by.

Defense attorneys are well-versed in these processes, and they have a supportive staff to help them. They can draft well-written arguments, help clients understand how to act in the courtroom, interview or question witnesses and file the right documents on time with the court.

Dealing with a criminal charge can be difficult. Therefore, people accused of crimes in Tennessee or Georgia may find it beneficial to meet with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.