Why do Criminal Defendants Represent Themselves?

Criminal defendants choose to self-represent for a variety of reasons. Although it’s usually best to hire a defense lawyer, some defendants choose not to do so. The determining factor in the decision to hire an attorney is the potential punishment the defendant faces; the harsher the sentence, the greater the need for legal counsel. Here, the reader can learn why some defendants choose to defy the odds and represent themselves.

Why Some Defendants Self-Represent

A defendant may choose to self-represent for many reasons, such as those listed below.

  • They may be able to afford an attorney, but they don’t believe the sentence justifies the expense.
  • They plan to plead guilty to an offense with a fixed sentence, and they believe hiring a lawyer would be of no help.
  • They believe that lawyers are part of ‘the system’ and they want to make a political statement.
  • An incarcerated person may be able to gain additional privileges, such as law library access, by representing himself or herself.

A self-represented defendant isn’t bound by the lawyer’s ethical code. Therefore, the person can delay the process and cause further problems in an overloaded system by filing frivolous motions. However, this approach may backfire.

Choosing Self-Representation Over an Attorney’s Help

While it is ill advised for a client to represent themselves in a criminal case, it can make sense in limited circumstances such as those listed in the beginning of this guide. For instance, a defendant charged with a petty offense may be able to self-represent, while a person accused of a violent felony should hire an attorney with Powers McCartan PLLC.

Determine the Potential Punishment

Sentencing guidelines are often complex, and typical sentences are not always listed in court rules or statutes. However, some areas do have determinate laws, which provide a range of sentences for particular crimes. Judges are often permitted to add or subtract time from the baseline, depending on the circumstances of the case. A defense attorney can help the client determine their potential sentence and form a strategy accordingly. When a client goes into the case well-informed, they’re more likely to achieve a favorable outcome.