You have probably heard that you can represent yourself in a criminal case, which is called being a pro se litigant. What you may not know, however, is that the decision is not always up to you. For example, the court may bar you from being a pro se litigant if:
You Are Young
If you are young, then the judge may not allow you to represent yourself because you lack the capacity to understand legal proceedings. The exact age depends on your jurisdiction, but you shouldn't expect to be a pro se litigant if you are legally a minor.
You Are Uneducated
Apart room your age, the court will also consider your level of education when deciding whether to allow you to represent yourself. For example, you may be barred from representing yourself if your highest level of education is grade school. Most jurisdictions do not have specific educational attainments that allow you to be a pro se litigant. In most cases, the decision is left to the judges' discretion.
You Are Facing a Very Serious Crime
In deciding whether or not to allow you to represent yourself, a judge may also consider the potential consequences that you may have to deal with should you represent yourself and make a mistake. This boils down to the nature and seriousness of your crime. For example, pro se litigation may not be suitable for a serious crime with potentially severe sentences. On the other hand, the consequences of representing yourself (and making a mistake) in an infraction (such as jaywalking) aren't too serious.
You Lack a Good Command of English
If you can't hold a conversation in English effectively, then it would not be a good idea to litigate your own case. Keep it in mind that court sessions are held in English. While translators are provided, legal professionals who are fluent in both languages are better equipped to represent your case.
Remember that the judge will look at all of these issues in their entirety; there isn't a single factor that will be used to determine whether or not you can defend yourself. For example, you may be barred from representing yourself even with a reasonable education and good command of English if you are young.
Whether or not you are allowed to defend yourself without an criminal law attorney, it is not a good option to take. According to Nolo, representing yourself is not a good idea because it increases your case's probability of going to court, getting convicted and getting a severe sentence.Share
27 January 2015
When I started my first small business, I had no idea how much I really didn’t know. I was fully prepared to deal with customers, sell product and even handle complaints and returns. What I wasn’t aware of was that there is so much more to it. I was lacking the legal expertise to protect the company and myself. I wanted others to benefit from my experience, mistakes and lessons learned, so I started this blog. From employment law to the legal business contracts you’ll have to sign when you form partnerships, business law is complex. I hope that the information here will help you to be better prepared when you start your business so that you’ll know when you need to call an attorney and when you can handle things yourself.