The short answer is yes, but it is rarely a good idea. Although anyone facing DUI charges has the right to a lawyer, they can represent themselves if they feel the need to do so. Instances in which this is in a defendant’s best interest are few and far between. This is because there are very few reasons in which a defendant would not need the legal expertise and guidance regularly received during the course of the drunk driving court process.
There are some instances where this could be a good thing. For instance, if you are a DUI defense lawyer that practices in the state for which you are facing charges, it could be great. Even if you are or were an attorney that practices a different type of law, but in the state for which you are facing charges, representing yourself would still be a bad idea. Most attorneys would tell you the same thing, even if they were the ones facing charges.
Why Representing Yourself Is An Awful Idea
A surprising number of drunk driving defendants can fight their charges. For some, learning that their case even has the possibility of being dropped or won is a surprise. They mistakenly believe that since their blood alcohol content was measured in some way that the courts are going to throw the book at them. Their court date approaches and they do not consult with anyone. Too often, the defendant then faces maximum penalties without anyone there to advise them that they are getting screwed.
Hiring an attorney may be cheaper than you think. Although hiring an attorney is never cheap, you may be surprised by how much a drunk driving defense lawyer will charge you for his or her services. While some lawyers will charge an arm and a leg, as well as charge you for each contact that you have with their firm, others may be willing to offer more affordable services at flat rate fees. The point is, if you don’t call around and find out, you will never know. You may have an opportunity to retain a great attorney at a reasonable price.
You could sabotage your own case. This is the main reason that it is so important to make sure that you at least have a public defender; since you don’t have years of experience with these types of cases, there is a chance that you could sabotage your own case when trying to represent yourself. It is surprisingly easy to do. Overlooking a seemingly useless piece of evidence or saying certain statements during your proceedings could destroy your case immediately.
Why Having A Lawyer Is Important
There are a number of reasons why hiring a lawyer or utilizing the services of a public defender is important. For one, prosecutors lick their chops every time a person decides to represent themselves in court. This is because most people do not know what they are doing. They don’t know what to expect, they don’t know what is expected of them, they don’t know how the law pertains to their case, and they often do not know that the prosecutor is not their friend. This lack of knowledge and preparedness is crippling.
The following stages of a DUI leave a lot of room for error and require a skilled legal mind to ensure they are handled properly:
DMV hearing. In California, a DUI defendant has 10 days from the date of their arrest to request a hearing with their DMV at which time they can attempt to convince a DMV rep to allow them to keep their driver’s license. Those who represent themselves rarely learn about this huge opportunity and, if they do, they are not able to take advantage of having their attorney present during the hearing to help increase their chances of success.
The arraignment. A DUI arraignment is where a defendant pleads guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges that have been brought against them. The choice that they make will have a substantial impact on their case. An attorney can advise you as to what each choice can result in and help you decide which choice is in your best interest.
Plea bargaining. As a previous District Attorney turned DUI defense lawyer, I have plenty of experience dealing with plea bargains from both sides of the fence. I can tell you that many prosecutors do not offer plea bargains to defendants who choose to represent themselves as plea bargains are often offered because the prosecutor feels that the defendant has a chance of beating their charge. If the defendant represents themselves, there is little pressure on the prosecutor to be lenient.
Southern California Defense Assistance
Having second thoughts about representing yourself? Call (844) 241-1221 to obtain a free confidential case evaluation from one of our skilled lawyers serving Orange County, Los Angeles, and Riverside. Let us help you better understand your charges and penalties and help you determine what options are available to protect your freedom.