Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog
     


Pro Per Representation: Does Representing Yourself Make Sense?

Posted on: July 14, 2008 at 3:40 p.m.

Pro Se representation, or representing yourself in court/acting as your own legal counsel, is highly controversial, to say the least. In most cases that receive media attention, a violent criminal with a questionable mental state defends himself/herself. However, the practice isn't that uncommon, and it happens much more often on a small scale. Foregoing the use of an attorney in a criminal or civil procedure may seem like a cost-effective idea, but the question remains - is it a wise choice to a defend a criminal case in Southern California courtrooms?

In the case of actor Dylan McDermott, he's chosen to represent himself during a divorce proceeding. The challenge for Mr. McDermott is, can he afford to make mistakes and lose ground on the settlement?

In a recent decision, WILLIAM M. HALLEY v. STATE OF MONTANA, in The Supreme Court of the State of Montana, a defendant claimed that he was denied his legal rights, in part due to interference of his attempted pro se representation. He claimed the attorneys that were appointed to him gave him ineffective counsel. He was found guilty in the case for which he defended himself, and was given a 40 year suspended sentence. So, in the end he greatly annoyed the attorneys in the case, the judge and filed several motions concering portions of the law he did not have a good understanding of, which all led to being found guilty.

There are many "apparent" reasons to defend yourself, cost, intelligence, seeming know how, but in the end a skilled and experienced attorney can not only take the burden off of your shoulders, but can navigate the legal waters in a way you can't. Whether it's a DUI matter, drug charge or some other felony or misdemeanor offense, an experienced criminal defense attorney may save you thousands of dollars in fines, years in jail and a damaged criminal record.

The ins and outs of the law, the ability to negotiate and plea bargain, and the experience of being able to defend against a knowledgeable prosecutor is invaluable. Hiring a plumber makes sense if a pipe bursts and hiring an attorney makes sense if the police arrest you.

Tagged as: federal law and defense







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