We have met the enemy and he is us-The Dangers and Disadvantages of Self-Representation by Bo Kalabus

By Bo Kalabus
Office: 972-562-7549
Collin County 24 Hour Jail Release 214-402-4364

From time to time in my practice when I meet with people I hear the following–“I don’t know why I need a lawyer, I know I messed up, I’m sure the judge will respect me stepping up to take the blame and go easy on my punishment.” Or “I just want to take a deal and get this over with, I don’t think I need a lawyer.” Well, after I hear people say these things I think to myself that the old comic strip character, Pogo, got it right with the following quote-“We have met the enemy and he is us”

Defending a criminal offense can be tricky stuff. If you are charged with a crime, you should get a lawyer on board as early as possible. As I have discussed in other entries, people can waive most of their rights just by talking to a detective or police officer and cause themselves a great deal of harm.

When a person charged with a criminal offense shows up at a court setting without a lawyer, the judge will admonish them about the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation. The judge will highlight that the prosecutor is not there to help them and for that matter neither is the judge. This sounds like a warning right? Well, that’s exactly what it is. Think of it this way–if you have a toothache do you go see a dentist to have the tooth examined, or do you take a pair of pliers and just rip your own tooth out to get it over with? Hopefully you go see a dentist because he/she knows the best way to repair your tooth and may not have to resort to pulling it. Also, what you do to your teeth can have lasting results. It’s no different with your criminal record–a criminal conviction is there for life. A local lawyer will know how the prosecutor and court that your case is in work and will work hard to put your record in the best position possible and present you with as many options as possible. Some of which you may not have even considered.

For example, let’s say you are looking at a theft charge in Collin County and you have no prior criminal record. If you are representing yourself, the prosecutor may offer you: 1) conviction with probation–and see if you bite on it; or 2) the best-case scenario, deferred adjudication. Either one may seem like a good deal to you because you are not getting jail time and that’s great. Well, with the first option you get a conviction on your record that everyone (such as future employers) will be able to see. And with the second option, although the judge does not convict you if you complete probation without any trouble, the arrest will still be on your record. You can eventually shield the arrest record from the general public if you petition for a non-disclosure, but if you are trying to get a job that requires a professional license- such as doctor, lawyer, nurse, teach, etc., those employers will be able to see the arrest even if you have it non-disclosed. As you can see, there are some far-reaching consequences from taking a probation or deferred deal that you may not consider if you are representing yourself.

Now, consider the same example above except this time you hire a criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer reviews the facts and sees that you have no priors on your record. Armed with this knowledge, the lawyer negotiates with the prosecutor and gets you an interview for the Collin County pre-trial diversion program (a person cannot be considered for the pre-trial diversion program unless they are represented by a lawyer). You do well on the interview and get into the program. After 9 months you successfully complete the program and the case against you is dismissed. Your lawyer then files a petition for expunction on your behalf and the arrest and any record pertaining to the arrest is destroyed. You can now even legally say you have never been arrested and no future employer will see that you have been arrested.

The second scenario is much better than the first isn’t it? You wouldn’t pull your own tooth, now why would you take the same type of chance with your own criminal record?

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