Can I defende myself in court against a misdemeanor? 58 Answers as of July 12, 2013

How can I properly be my own attorney in court against a misdemeanor domestic violence charge?

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The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady
The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady | Kevin O'Grady
I previously answered a question like this with an analogy to the use of doctors. You have a right to represent yourself. If you feel that you can master being an attorney sufficiently to defend yourself against a misdemeanor charge, you have the right to do so. Even if you have the skills, since you are the defendant, your objectivity is clouded and hence any judgments you make may be skewed by your lack of objectivity. Hiring your own attorney to represent you is probably the best course.
Answer Applies to: Hawaii
Replied: 6/10/2011
Eric J Schurman, Attorney at Law
Eric J Schurman, Attorney at Law | Eric James Schurman
You would be foolish to proceed without legal representation. It's very important to hire an attorney. Feel free to call me to discuss further.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 6/9/2011
Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
It is not a good idea to try to represent yourself for anything other than a violation ( a violation is not a crime- only misdemeanors and felonies are crimes ), because the prosecutor generally will not offer as good a plea bargain as you could get if you hire an attorney.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/8/2011
Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
I would recommend getting you own lawyer. A conviction would prevent you from possessing a gun or ammunition under the federal law. Stay well.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 6/7/2011
Nelson & Lawless
Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
Sure, if you know how to effectively represent yourself in court against a professional prosecutor intending to convict. Raise all possible defenses with whatever admissible and credible witnesses, evidence and facts are available for legal arguments, for evidence suppression or other motions, or at trial. Effective plea-bargaining, using those defenses, could possibly keep you out of jail, or at least dramatically reduce it. If you don't know how to do these things effectively, then hire an attorney that does, who will try to get a dismissal, diversion, reduction or other decent outcome through plea bargain, or take it to trial if appropriate. If serious about hiring counsel to help you in this, and if this is in SoCal courts, feel free to contact me. I'll be happy to help use whatever defenses there may be.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/7/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    Go to law school and study the code section you are charged with. Also go to court and watch a trial of someone charged with the same charge based on the same facts as your case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    You are allowed to represent yourself in court if you wish and if you feel yourself competent to handle the case. You may wish to consult with an attorney before this decision is made however.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre | Jonathan T. Sarre
    When you go to court you can tell the judge that you wish to be your own attorney. The judge will then usually try and talk you out of it. This is very good advice since it is a very bad idea to represent yourself in court. If you insist, then some jurisdictions will give you written forms to read and sign stating that you understand you are making a poor decision and you want to do so. If there are no forms available then the judge will usually just explain to you why it is much better to have an attorney and make sure you understand that you have a right to have an attorney and all that you are knowingly waiving that right.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    I cannot possibly explain to you the ins and outs of criminal litigation. It takes attorney's 3 years of law school just to get the basics down. You should really retain counsel ASAP, but of you refuse to do so best of luck to you.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Bloom Legal, LLC
    Bloom Legal, LLC | Seth J. Bloom
    Unless you are familiar with the law, it is unlikely that you will be very successful at defending yourself. You could also be taking a very large risk with your freedom and your future if you do not fully understand the consequences of a conviction. If you cannot afford to retain private counsel then you should certainly consider requesting that the court appoint a public defender to your case.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Subin
    Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
    Domestic violence assault is one of the most serious misdemeanor charges there is. You have likely been ordered to have no contact with the victim. This will make it very difficult to handle the case yourself. You should probably hire a good lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    Every person has the right to defend themselves in court. To do so, you should have a firm handle on the Michigan Court Rules and the Michigan Rules of Evidence. If you are uncomfortable defending yourself, you may wish to hire an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    Yes. Not a wise decision, but yes.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    Yes, you can represent yourself in any type of criminal case, however, the old adage applies, "He who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer." This is because when you are a party to any action, you cannot be objective about the case and you will often miss things that could be helpful because you are so bent on doing things "your way" and not necessarily the best way to help you overcome the charges. And, by the way, the judge will treat you very differently than an attorney who you hire to handle the matter. Sorry, it's just the way it is in the system. Most Judges look askance at "Pro Se" litigants and take most of what they say with a grain of salt rather than as legitimate legal argument. I strongly suggest you hire an attorney to represent you. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Khayoumi Law Firm
    Khayoumi Law Firm | Salim A. Khayoumi
    Yes you can defend yourself in court against misdemeanor criminal charges. The Latin term for this type of representation is pro se. Self-representation is not advised; however, permitted. To speak with an attorney in New Mexico, call the Khayoumi Law Firm.
    Answer Applies to: New Mexico
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Law Office of Michael Moody
    Law Office of Michael Moody | Michael Moody
    Only a fool would represent himself in court.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/12/2013
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    Why would you want to represent yourself? Are you a law school graduate? Do you have a law license? DO you understand the rules of evidence? My friend, if you are serious about prevailing in this case, and want to avoid time in jail or prison, go with a lawyer to court. This is a very serious offense, even if you are broke, ask for a public defender if necessary, but GO FORWARD IN THE CASE WITH COUNSEL!!!!!!!!!!
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    It seems that you are young, uneducated, and have no clue how to handle a criminal case. You are charged with a serious crime. You are entitled to a free lawyer if you are indigent (poor), which I would bet you are. The fact that you would even ask if you should defend yourself proves that you do not understand the criminal justice system. The court will not even allow you to represent yourself in a court of law. As the old saying goes, "A man who represents himself has a fool for a client." I don't know if you are guilty of domestic violence or have assaulted your girlfriend, I can only tell you that you must get the best attorney you can afford or you may end up in jail with the other men who commit crimes and then think they can do without a good lawyer. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Office of Maureen Furlong Baldwin
    Law Office of Maureen Furlong Baldwin | Maureen Furlong Baldwin
    You have the right to represent yourself in court but you will be held to rules of evidence so you will need to educate yourself both on rules of law and rules of evidence. You also have the right to a public defender if you cannot afford an attorney. there is no "one size fits all" defense you can just pick up on the internet. All criminal cases are fact-specific.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    Everyone has an absolute right to defend themselves on any charge. However, if you defend yourself you are said to have a fool for an attorney and a fool for a client.A conviction on domestic violence forever forfeits your right to own and bear arms. You would never be allowed to have a firearm in your possession, which would mean you can never hunt, be in military service or hold an occupation requiring you to wear a sidearm. You would not be allowed to have a firearm in the place where you reside or in any vehicle that you are driving.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Deal & Hooks, LLC
    Deal & Hooks, LLC | Shawn P. Hooks
    You may defend yourself in court against a misdemeanor in Ohio provided the Court explains your rights sufficiently and also discusses the consequences of your decision to do so. Whether you should defend yourself is an entirely different question. You will be held to the same standards as an attorney with the rules of criminal procedure and evidence. You may find it difficult to keep out certain evidence that an attorney may keep out, or admit other evidence that you would like to admit. Certain questions cannot be asked. In my experience more defendants hurt their case when acting as their own attorney, even in a very winnable case. If the issue is financial you may qualify for an appointed attorney. If you decide on representing yourself you should instantly familiarize yourself with the court's rules, the criminal rules, and the rules of evidence. You should also attempt to read any case law you can find regarding whatever issues make your case unique.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    You can represent yourself, but it's not recommended even for a misdemeanor. The process is too complex and complicated for someone not properly trained or with no experience in how it works. At the very least, consult with an attorney for advice on how to proceed or be a "court watcher" to get a feeling on what happens. You will need to familiarize yourself with the law, rules of evidence, and criminal procedure. Again, it's not recommended to represent yourself.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    I would strenuously suggest you hire counsel. there is a great deal at stake. A fifth degree assault can be very serious. It requires that you acted with an intent to harm someone or that the other person was in reasonable apprehension of physical harm from an act. A fifth degree assault is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, the collateral consequences of a conviction are extremely significant and, arguably, more severe than the criminal penalties themselves. As a result, it is extremely important to protect your public and criminal record. First, if convicted of a fifth degree assault or any assault offense, employers who require a background check will not hire you. That is particularly true if you work closely with customers or in some other service oriented profession. Second, many landlords now perform background checks for applicants and, if you decide to rent, you may be denied an apartment with a crime of violence such as an assault on your record. Third, a conviction for assault may result in licensing problems for certain occupations or interfere with acceptance into some schools of higher learning. Finally, it is also compelling that a non-citizen may suffer deportation and, even a citizen would lose their right to possess a weapon ,even for hunting purposes, after a conviction. Often, the best defense is a good offense. In most instances, an argument for self defense may be made and Motions should be served to acquire all statements and medical records from the prosecution. Often, with skilled legal representation jail time and convictions can be avoided.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Apple Law Firm PLLC
    Apple Law Firm PLLC | David Goldman
    It is possible to defend yourself but not recommend unless you have legal training. If the money is an issue, you may check with your local public defenders office or the legal aid organizations in your area. Remember that with a domestic violence charge when it involves a spouse or spouse equivalent or a child, you can loose your firearms rights forever if you do not follow the correct procedures.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
    The answer is: You typically can't. To be properly represented, a person who knows the Court Rules, Rules of Evidence, and law applicable to the charges is in the best position. If this does not describe you, then you may not "properly" be representing yourself. You can still choose to do so, but the result may not be what you hope. My best advise is to hire an attorney to represent you. After all, there will be a prosecutor, possibly police, and a witness on the other side. Do you want to face all these accusers on your own without knowing the rules that they know? I hope that this was helpful.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan | Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    Representing yourself is a very foolish idea. You will be required to understand the law just as an attorney would. The prosecutor will be an attorney who is trained to prosecute and will be familiar with the applicable law, the rules of evidence, and courtroom procedure. A judge will advise you that you will not get any special treatment because you are not an attorney. It's often said, "a person who defends himself has a fool for a client."
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Harrison & Harrison
    Harrison & Harrison | Samuel Harrison
    You CAN defend yourself, but it is a very,very bad idea. Lawyers have a saying that a person who represents himself has a fool for a client. For one thing, it is almost impossible to be objective enough to look at your situation. Successfully conducting the defense of a criminal case requires a lot of technical legal knowledge, especially about rules of evidence and courtroom procedure. Don't be cheap or stupid. Hire a lawyer if you can. Ask for an appointed if you can't.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC | Rankin Johnson IV
    Don't do it. You're entitled to represent yourself. Assuming you're capable of understanding the right to counsel and waiving your right to counsel, you can do so. But you shouldn't. Handling a trial is not as easy as it appears on TV. The technicalities that the press like to write about are all complex rules about what evidence can be presented in court, and how. Your attorney will know how to get discovery, issue subpoenas, and, if you can't afford it, to get an investigator or expert paid for by the court. Further, if your attorney is an idiot and messes up your case, you can seek to have the conviction set aside on that basis. If you mess up your trial, there is no basis for relief. If you tell the judge you want to represent yourself, the judge should tell you that there are advantages to having an attorney represent you, and make sure that you really want to represent yourself, and then let you. This is a mistake. Don't represent yourself.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    You need to hire a lawyer! Not hiring a lawyer is one of the biggest mistakes by people in your situation. I have specialized in this area of the law for over 30 years in your area and have seen how people regret the fact that they did not hire a successful attorney to help them in their time of need. One who represents themself has a fool for a client. Feel free to call me to answer any additional questions.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    While over the years I have seen a few non-lawyers to a decent job of defending themselves, the simple truth is that you probably should hire a good criminal lawyer to help you. Lawyers not only know the procedural rules and substantive law, they also know the judges and what is expected at each stage of our legal system. Please seek legal representation! Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Bird & Van Dyke, Inc.
    Bird & Van Dyke, Inc. | Mary Ann Bird
    You can't. A person who represents himself represents a fool.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    The Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC
    The Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC | Justin C. Olsinski
    You cannot properly defend yourself in a domestic violence case. If you were to go to trial you would have to cross examine the "victim", this would be an impossible task even for an attorney charged with the crime. The value of the attorney besides the years of practice and study, is someone who is not emotionally involved. It is also less likely to reach a deal with an ADA representing yourself.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    Yes you can defend yourself in court on any charge. It is also legal for you to remove your own appendix with a Swiss Army Knife and no anesthetic. Both are equally painless and foolproof.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Lisa Mulligan Law Offices, LLC
    Lisa Mulligan Law Offices, LLC | Lisa Mulligan
    I would strongly advise against representing yourself in a criminal matter. People who represent themselves are expected to know the law and the rules of evidence just like lawyers, and it generally gives the prosecutor an unfair advantage. You should find a lawyer who can make sure that your rights are protected. Please feel free to give me a call if you have questions!
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/7/2011
    Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis | Lawrence Lewis, PC
    You cannot properly defend yourself. There is no non-trial attorney that can properly defend himself in court. There are only about 20% of the trial attorneys that can defend themselves in court. You I recommend that you retain an attorney or get ready for a conviction on your record. But if you insist, review my website for tips, since I have more than 250 jury trials.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Frances R. Johnson
    Frances R. Johnson | Frances R. Johnson
    You have the right to represent yourself. However, if you qualify for a court-appointed attorney or can afford to have one represent you, that is better. Attorneys are trained to know what evidence can or cannot come in at trial, and experienced attorneys generally know how to sum up the evidence and make the best arguments possible.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts | Andrew Stephen Roberts
    This is not a wise idea. An attorney can help negotiate you through this process and possibly plea to a lesser charge or get you into some diversion program. There is a great deal to the saying "An attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client!" Please call if you have any questions.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Office of Joe Dane
    Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
    You have absolutely every right to defend yourself in a criminal matter. Of course, you will be held to the same standards as an attorney. The judge won't help you with how to introduce your evidence or how to properly conduct the case. You just tell the judge you want to represent yourself. That's the answer. Whether or not it's a good decision on your part is a whole different story. It usually isn't. You're facing jail time, probation, 52 weeks of anger management counseling and other terms and conditions of probation. A conviction could hamper future custody proceedings if there are children involved, not to mention having to disclose a conviction on job applications, restraining orders, etc. Sure, you can represent yourself, but why would you? Get a lawyer. If you cannot afford one and that's the issue, you are entitled to the services of the public defender.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Eric M. Mark, Attorney at Law
    Eric M. Mark, Attorney at Law | Eric Mark
    You cannot. There is no good way to defend yourself. If you want to challenge the charges, hire a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    You can. It's a constitutional right. However you will be going up against a skilled prosecutor. Not the best idea.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Office of James Christie, LLC
    Law Office of James Christie, LLC | James Christie
    "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client." Representing yourself is a bad idea, especially if you lack legal training. Keep in mind that you will be pitted against a prosecutor who is trained and experienced in the rules of evidence, criminal procedure, and advocacy. Lacking such training and experience yourself will allow the prosecutor to run rough-shod over you, and he or she will likely be able to get away with things that an experienced criminal defense attorney would never allow. Any competent attorney will advise against representing yourself.
    Answer Applies to: Alaska
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Sharifi & Baron
    Sharifi & Baron | S. Yossof Sharifi
    Let me ask you this: would you perform surgery on yourself? It's a move that almost always ends in disaster. Don't do it!!! Hire an attorney or have one appointed to you if you can't afford it.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    Most judges won't allow that. While you have a right to, most judges will require you at least have stand-by counsel to advise you. Why would you want to defend yourself? Do you know the rules of evidence, criminal procedure, how to cross-examine a witness, etc.?
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    The Law Offices of Greg Gray
    The Law Offices of Greg Gray | Greg Gray
    It's not advisable for anyone who is not knowledgeable in the area of criminal law to represent themselves in a domestic violence case, even if it is a Class C Misdemeanor (simple assault). In Texas, a conviction for family violence can be used to enhance a subsequent charge for family violence to a felony. Also, a conviction for family violence can affect child custody rights in a divorce proceeding. There are too many consequences from a family violence conviction to not have the advice of a professional.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Offices of Hugh Anthony Levine
    Law Offices of Hugh Anthony Levine | Hugh Anthony Levine
    The old saying is, "A person defending himself on a criminal charge has a fool for a client." But that person, fool or not, has a constitutional right to act as his own attorney, with certain exceptions about mental competency. Just remember, if this is your choice, that you won't be able to complain later that you had incompetent counsel.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    You can't. Remember the age old saying, "He who represents himself has a fool for a client." Why do you think when lawyers are charged (ie. Bill Clinton), even they hire lawyers to represent them? If a lawyer cannot represent himself competently, you, a non-lawyer, are light years away from being able to properly do so. Consult an experienced attorney is my best advice.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Offices of Phil Hache
    Law Offices of Phil Hache | Phil Hache
    That is a good question. I would not recommend representing yourself in a DV case as the rules of the Court, and the law in general is quite complex, which is why Attorneys dedicate years of schooling and their lives to such matters. The court should also advise you of this if they haven't already. If you are going to represent yourself, you can go to the Law Library to start researching the legal aspects of the case, and Court procedures. Be ready to dedicate a lot of time to this though. Whatever you decide, best of luck in your case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    The Law Offices of Gabriel Dorman
    The Law Offices of Gabriel Dorman | Gabriel Dorman
    You need to notify the court that you wish to represent yourself and the court will have you fill out a questionnaire and waiver. That being said, and for what it's worth, representing yourself on criminal charges is not often the best way to achieve the best result. In any case, good luck to you.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC | Raymond J. Savoy
    When you say defend yourself, do you intend to contest the charges? If that is your intent I recommend you hire an attorney. If this is your first offense and you do not intend to contest the charges you can represent yourself.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Edward A. Kroll, Attorney at Law
    Edward A. Kroll, Attorney at Law | Edward A. Kroll
    You should never, ever try to be your own attorney. You will almost assuredly lose. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you should ask the court to appoint one for you (a public defender). Trials, especially domestic violence trials, can be very complicated. You probably do not have any legal training and do not know when to object to evidence, how to formulate a case strategy, etc. It's often said that "the person who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client." You will have a MUCH better chance if you hire an attorney or get a public defender. If insist on acting as your own attorney, you will have to sign a waiver of counsel and talk with a judge. Again, it is never recommended that you do this.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger | James A Schoenberger
    You ask the judge to proceed "pro se". This is usually ill-advised and certainly so in the case of a DV charge where, another other things, you will lose you right to posses a firearm if convicted.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Van Der Jagt Law Firm
    Van Der Jagt Law Firm | Grant Van Der Jagt
    Ace the LSAT, law school and the bar, then start the learning curve.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/6/2011
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    It is next to impossible to properly + completely represent yourself. Hire a lawyer or at least consult with one.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/6/2011
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