Interviewer: I’m sure there has been an argument raised by different people that you have spoken with previously. What’s the difference and what’s the benefit of hiring a private attorney versus saying, “I’m just going to try and go with the public defender” or “I’m going to just try and handle the case myself and represent myself.”
In Certain Circumstances, Self-Representation Could Lead to Self-Incrimination
David: Handling a case yourself is a serious problem. For example, I could approach a prosecutor and basically describe to the prosecutor why my client should get a favorable deal and describe the circumstances to the client.
If a client were describing the facts, it would basically put him in a position where he is admitting to certain actions. What the lawyer says are not admissions. They speak from a pure legal point of view.
Self-Representation: Criminal Convictions Have Long-Term Consequences
In terms of whether representing yourself is a viable option or not, the reality is that there are so many different nuances in the law. Most people are unaware that a criminal conviction could impact your life. I believe that it is highly dangerous to represent yourself.
For example, a young adult who is not an American citizen is charged with possession of marijuana and goes to the court without a lawyer. The minimum fine is $350.00. He shrugs his shoulders and pleads guilty and the prosecutor gives him the $350.00 fine.
Oops, he forgot to ask questions regarding what happens to people who get convicted of drug offenses who are not American citizens. Six months later he’s being picked up by ICE Immigration Control Enforcement. There are collateral consequences that a lawyer can advise people of before they plead guilty.