No competent attorney would ever tell you to represent yourself in a criminal case. Even accomplished attorneys, with distinguished criminal defense records, use other counsel for their personal legal matters, including when one occasionally gets in trouble. If you’ve been arrested or believe that you are going to be charged with a crime, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately.
In order to build a solid criminal defense, an attorney needs to prepare by doing all of the following:
● Acquire the police documents, including the police report and the probable cause affidavit
● Depose any witnesses to the alleged incident, including any officer that was involved.
● Review discovery evidence against their client, including video, witness statements, crime scene photos, and physical evidence, like fingerprints, DNA, etc.
● Disclose any new discovery evidence to the prosecution.
● Determine to what extent their client will talk to the police or answer questions.
● Possibly hire expert witnesses to testify and explain technical aspects of the case to the jury.
● Determine whether or not evidence was obtained illegally, and if so, file a motion to suppress that evidence.
● After evaluating the prosecutorial case, entertain plea options presented by the prosecution.
● Deliver opening arguments, question witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution.
● Know when they have grounds for an objection.
As you’re probably aware, these are not things that you can learn from studying for a few months. Even something as simple as subpoenaing a witness is a process that’s beyond the average layperson. Attorneys go to school for years before interning for a criminal defense law firm or taking a job with the state attorney or the public defender. That’s because criminal law is not intuitive. It takes education, training, and discipline.
If you were considering representing yourself because you have no money for an attorney, you should, by all means, request a public defender. You are entitled to counsel from the courts, and in lieu of better options, a public defender can competently represent you. But there is a reason why private defense lawyers exist. Public defenders are dedicated civil servants, but they are often given massive caseloads that force them to negotiate as many individual cases as possible. They don’t usually have the time or resources to dedicate to your case as a private defense lawyer does.
Private attorneys, like criminal defense lawyer Stroleny, manage their own caseloads. They are beholden only to the client and to the rule of law. Many of them started in the state attorney’s office or in the public defender’s office, so they know the system from the inside. Private attorneys have the resources to build solid cases and the experience to know how to interrogate a police officer on the stand under cross-examination.
If you are able to afford a private lawyer, then you should try to secure the best representation that you can. If you aren’t able to raise the money for private counsel, then you should request for the court to appoint you an attorney, but by no means should you try to represent yourself.