What to Know About Representing Yourself in a Criminal Case

If you’re charged with a crime, you have the right to legal representation. You also have the right to waive this and represent yourself, but doing so may be contrary to your best interests.

Anyone who is charged with a crime in Massachusetts has certain rights afforded to them that are outlined in, and protected by, the United States Constitution. One of these rights is the right to competent legal counsel. While this is a right that most choose to exercise, there are those who want to represent themselves in court. Consider the following regarding what you need to know about representing yourself, and call our experienced criminal defense attorney for more information. 

When Can You Waive the Right to Legal Representation? 

The right to legal counsel is found in the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, which holds that a defendant in a criminal case has the right to a defense attorney, even if the defendant cannot afford to hire an attorney. A defendant can waive this right, but to do so, the defendant must first be validly informed of the risks of waiving their rights. A 1975 Supreme Court case held that for a defendant to waive their right to counsel, they must make the decision knowingly and intelligently, and they must be both able and willing to abide by the rules and procedures of the court. 

Reasons People Choose to Represent Themselves

There are several reasons why a defendant may choose to represent themselves. Potential reasons include:

  • General distrust of government and lawyers;
  • Financial concerns about the costs of the attorney;
  • False sense of confidence in one’s own legal abilities;
  • Belief that an attorney–especially a public defender–won’t provide effective counsel; or
  • Belief that because the charges against the defendant are minor, legal representation isn’t required. 

The Disadvantages of Representing Yourself in a Criminal Case 

While representing yourself in a criminal case may seem like a smart choice, it rarely is. The vast majority of defendants do not have any legal training, and are therefore not able to competently and effectively navigate the legal system and represent themselves in court. Further, remember that the prosecution is comprised of persons who do have legal training; attempting to defend oneself against someone with greater legal knowledge and skills typically does not end in favor of the defendant. Without legal training, you may make a blunder that could have devastating consequences for you, or could overlook a defense or strategy that would positively shape the outcome of your case.

Learn More About Effective Legal Defense in a Criminal Case

If you are unsure about whether or not you should represent yourself after being charged with a crime, we urge you to contact our law office and consult with Attorney Paul R. Moraski. The Law Office of Paul R. Moraski has years of experience providing counsel to those facing criminal charges, and can help you to understand your rights and options today. Please call our law firm directly at (978) 397-0011 today, or use the intake form on our website to send us a message.