Why do I need a lawyer?
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right… to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” – The Sixth Amendment
“A Man Who Is His Own Lawyer Has A Fool for a Client” - Old English Proverb
The choice to hire an attorney is an extremely important decision. Although hiring an attorney is almost always the best choice, defendants choose to represent themselves. This choice is not the defendant’s alone, and a judge will make a ruling on whether the defendant is competent enough to represent himself. With the rise of the internet and many new legal resources available for free to defendants, this may be tempting at first. However, even if a defendant is found competent to represent himself, there are still many good reasons to consider hiring an attorney.
1. Evaluating You Options
You’ve been arrested, charged, and now you’re facing court in a couple weeks. You’ve been offered a deal if you’re willing to plead guilty. Should you take it, or is trial a better option? Most people don’t know how to answer that question. With little to no legal experience, most people have no idea what their chances at trial might be or whether a plea deal is worth considering. A good attorney can explain the charges, help you understand your options, and even help negotiate a better plea deal if that’s your best option.
2. Avoiding the Politics
In much of Missouri, judges and prosecutors are elected in county elections. This means that, right or wrong, Judges and prosecutors are often under a lot of expectations. Judges are regularly expected to be “tough on crime.” Prosecutors are expected to win cases with the charges the police bring them. And these pressures can play a big role in how your case plays out. Local attorneys often know how these pressures can create problems for defendants and ways to work with or around them to help the defendant.
Even with free legal resources popping up online, figuring out what you need and how to use it can be hard and time consuming. Reading case law, filing motions, understanding timelines and deadlines. And that’s before you even get into a court room. At trial, you may need to examine or cross examine witnesses, enter evidence into the record, or find an expert to testify for you. Even picking jurors to remove can be a daunting task unless you’ve had some experience. Any one of these issues could make or break your case. These are skills attorneys spend years of school and work developing to help criminal defendants, and they can use them to help you too.
4. Knowing the Right People
A significant part of the legal process is knowing who to talk to. Whether it’s knowing which court clerk you need to schedule a hearing or how to reach the prosecutor, knowing the right person to talk to can often be half the battle. If you haven’t spent much of your life or career in a county’s legal system, you likely won’t know who to go to. An experienced attorney can cut out that wasted time and make sure everything goes to the right person, at the right time.
Almost every defendant could benefit from hiring an attorney. Attorneys have years of legal experience to offer their clients. If you are or think you might soon be facing charges, consider hiring an attorney to help.