A Person Who Represents Themself, Has the World's Dumbest Client
To put it simply, you should NEVER represent yourself. Even in cases where a lawyer has been charged with a crime, it is advisable to seek another attorney. It is always best to have an outside perspective on the issues, so you can prepare the most effective defense. A lawyer has the skill and training to achieve results that someone without legal training could not. After all, that is why we have lawyers in the first place.
A Fresh Perspective
When someone is charged with a crime, it is very easy for that person to rationalize why they did what they did. This can blind them to reality. Even if a person believes what they did was justified, it certainly does not mean that the court will feel the same way; in fact, the court most likely will not feel the same. An attorney will be able to give an outside perspective, and see the case as it really is, and not as the client THINKS it is. This will expose the strengths and weaknesses in the case and put the client in a better position to obtain a favorable outcome.
For the most part, when a person has been charged with a crime, the state believes that it has enough evidence to obtain a conviction. Even if a person thinks that they are innocent of the crime, the prosecution will still proceed with the case. An attorney will be able to see the weaknesses in the case and be able to work with prosecutor to have the charges reduced or even dismissed.
An Even Playing Field
If a prosecutor can obtain a conviction, they are going to do so. Even if the prosecutor knows that the defendant has no knowledge of the criminal system, they are still going to try and get a conviction. This means that an unrepresented person is at a serious disadvantage because the prosecutor will have knowledge that the defendant does not have. An attorney wipes out this advantage, and ensures that the defendant receives a fair trial.
Public Defender or Public Pretender?
I cannot tell you how many defendants that I have spoken with think that a public defender is a "fake attorney." There is nothing farther from the truth. Most defendants who are unsatisfied with their public defender, are unsatisfied because they do not take accountability for their own actions. Most public defenders have more experience in the courtroom than many private attorneys. Their sole purpose is to defend people in court. To this day, when I need advice on an issue, I often consult with several attorneys in the public defender's office. They spend their life in court ensuring that people get the best result possible. This is not to say that there are no bad public defenders, but generally you would be doing yourself a disservice to turn down one in favor of representing yourself.
Public Defender or Private Attorney?
There is no simple answer to this question. If you have the money, and you know an experienced private attorney that you trust, I would stick with that attorney. However, if you are strapped for cash, a public defender can be equally as effective. Ultimately, there are private attorneys who are better than the local public defender, and there are public defenders who are better than some private attorneys. You just need to do your homework, and find out the best fit.
How do I Find a Private Attorney?
Private attorneys are not in short supply, just open up the phone book or look online. But you should do some research to find out the attorney's reputation for obtaining satisfying results for clients, and what they charge. This website is very useful in browsing local attorneys, and getting a feel for who they are. You can also call the local bar association for a list of local attorneys.
To sum up this guide, you should never represent yourself in court, you have too much to lose. When it comes to choosing between a public defender or a private attorney, use your research to find the best match. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong choice, you just need to make a choice that makes you feel secure in your decision.