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Pro Se Representation: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Representing Yourself in Court

Anyone who has been charged with a crime has several rights afforded to them. One of the most important to their defense, however, is the right to have an attorney during criminal procedures. Criminal defense attorneys are there to help their clients with anything that should occur before, during or after trial. For those who do not want an attorney, however, defendants can represent themselves in Texas.

Those who choose to represent themselves in court are referred to as appearing pro se. Unfortunately for those doing so, they’ll need to learn all of the laws related to their charges in order to defend themselves as aptly as a lawyer would. Because of this, everyone should consider a few things before going pro se.

Why People Choose to Handle Their Own Defense

There are several reasons why people may choose to represent themselves in court:

  • Some individuals simply feel that they cannot afford an attorney. These people are usually under the belief that they won’t qualify for a state-appointed attorney.
  • There are also individuals who don’t trust attorneys to have their best interests in mind, so they choose to go it alone.
  • There are even those who honestly believe that they can present a better defense than a seasoned attorney could.

Representing Oneself: The Downside

It’s important to realize that lawyers don’t go to school for years because law is easy, and this should be recognized before a person decides to represent himself in court with only his limited knowledge of the law. A person who represents himself will have to not only learn the laws related to his charges, but he’ll also have to learn the procedures, such as filing motions and jury selection, that are inherent to the courtroom.

The worst part of this scenario is that the state’s prosecutor is an experienced attorney who works day in and day out with criminal procedures and legal statutes. In all honesty, criminal prosecutors are often a formidable force even for seasoned defense attorneys. Even a well-prepared pro se defendant will have a hard time against the state’s lawyer.

Advisory Counsel

A lack of legal knowledge cannot be used as an excuse for anything during or after a trial. The judge will not offer legal advice or instruct a pro se defendant on what to do next. A judge will, however, sometimes give a person access to an attorney, known as a co-counsel or advisory counsel, who will help the defendant during his trial.

This advisory counsel may do things like file motions, submit court documents, speak with the judge and answer questions that the pro se defendant may have. A co-counsel will do the same, but he’ll more or less work directly beside the defendant.

What Criminal Attorneys Can Do

Criminal defense attorneys are adept at handling criminal charges, and they stand a much better chance of being successful in court. According to an old adage, a person who represents himself in court “has a fool for a client.” It’s important to not let this be the case.

To learn more about pro se defendants, speak to attorney Shahin Zamir at 713-877-9400.