Most people like to try to fix things on their own when they can. When it comes to things like home improvements or car repairs, that do-it-yourself attitude is an admirable quality. With so much information readily available on the Internet, it can be tempting to try and save a little money by doing some research and figuring things out by yourself. After all, if it doesn’t work out, you can always call a plumber or mechanic to get the job done.
But if the potential consequences of doing it yourself involved the loss of your job, your reputation, and your freedom, you would likely think twice. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime in Indiana, attempting to represent yourself can be one of the costliest decisions you ever make.
Here are just four reasons why you need to retain an experienced Indiana criminal defense lawyer rather than try to defend yourself:
1. The Law is Complicated and the Criminal Justice System Can Steamroll You
The substantive law and procedural rules involved in a criminal case can be complex, overwhelming, and sometimes indecipherable. Knowing what the state must prove to gain a conviction, knowing what defenses may be available and how to assert those defenses, knowing how to assemble the necessary evidence or challenge the evidence, tests, or testimony presented by prosecutors are just a few of the issues confronting a criminal defendant. If you don’t know what you are doing, even a small misstep can lead you straight to jail. You may make an ill-advised statement to the police or prosecutors, waive important rights, or otherwise leave potential defenses by the wayside simply because you don’t know they even exist. A skilled defense lawyer will know the nuance of the law, will understand the rules of evidence and procedure, and will pursue every possible angle to present the strongest possible defense.
2. You Won’t Get Any Special Treatment
If you believe that judges and prosecutors will cut you some slack because you’ve decided to represent yourself, you will quickly learn how mistaken you are. A hearing in which your fate may be sealed can happen in the blink of an eye in an overburdened justice system trying to process as many cases as it can. Similarly, your miscues or ignorance of the law or proper procedures will not be viewed kindly by busy judges.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys will not be steamrolled and will ensure that your rights are protected during every interrogation, at every hearing, and throughout trial.
3. Public Defenders Likely Can’t Provide You With Individual Attention
Under the constitutions of the United States and the state of Indiana, you are entitled to an attorney at no cost to yourself at every stage of a criminal proceeding. Attorneys that are appointed to represent you under those circumstances are referred to as “Public Defenders.” There is nothing wrong with using a Public Defender, but you need to be aware that any Public Defender may be working on up to 100 other cases in addition to yours. This means that you may have difficulty speaking with your attorney outside of court settings, and important information that you need to pass along may not reach your attorney. That lack of attention and time means that your defense may not get the attention it needs and deserves.
Conversely, a good private criminal defense attorney will make himself available whenever you need him, will be there to answer your questions and ease your concerns, and will have the time, resources and commitment to make sure you have the best chance of a positive result that allows you to move on with your life.
4. You Won’t Get Any Special Treatment
Being charged with a criminal offense may result in the loss of your liberty, and you should make a rational decision about who to hire, rather than going with the cheapest option. “You get what you pay for” is very important to remember when talking about your freedom. Can you put a dollar value on a year of your life? Five years? 30?
Even if fines are all that you may be facing, a criminal conviction and record can have long-term consequences on multiple aspects of your life – your ability to get a job, obtain student loans, or even remain in the country, just to name a few. By spending some money on a good defense attorney, these costly outcomes, and perhaps even the fines themselves, may be reduced or avoided.
DIY may make sense at home. It doesn’t make sense at the courthouse.
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