It is possible for you to handle the case yourself, and if you complete the 90-96 program, you may end up with the same result as if you'd hired a lawyer.
However, there is still a lot that a lawyer can do to help you in this case. He or she can help ease all the anxiety you feel about the situation by walking you through the entire process and letting you know what to expect. Instead of having to come to court yourself and navigate the prosecutor, judge, clerks, and other court personnel, you can have someone by your side throughout the entire experience who speaks for you and advocates on your behalf. This will make the 90-96 enrollment process easier, faster, and will probably give you a better chance for success on the program. Remember, if you violate the 90-96 requirements, you will end up with a permanent criminal conviction on your record. An attorney can put you in the best possible position to succeed on the program, and can file an expungement petition for you once the case is closed.
The other important reason to consult an attorney is because there may be a way to fight your charge without having to do the 90-96 program! Sometimes police officers make mistakes, and if your rights were violated, a judge may dismiss the case against you. Or, if the State doesn't have enough evidence against you, the judge may find you "not guilty." These results can save you time and money over the 90-96 program.
Answering this question does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should seek a full consultation with a licensed attorney before relying on any advice offered through this website.
It is always better to have an attorney representing you in cases like this that can result in a misdemeanor conviction. You should take this seriously. Attorney William Harrison (http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/27612-nc-william-harrison-4456056.html) has experience with these sorts of charges. I am sure he will work with you on payment.
My answering this question and your reading this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. I only form attorney-client relationships upon a face-to-face meeting with prospective clients.
I would only add that the terms of the 90-96 itself are negotiable, so it may be that a lawyer can get you a better deal.
No answer to these questions is intended to, nor does it, create an attorney-client relationship. There is no substitute for an actual conversation with a licensed attorney about the particular facts and circumstances of your case.
No one has a savings account sitting around, just in case they ever need to retain a criminal defense attorney. It just isn't one of those things you plan for. But, just like when your car's transmission goes out, you need to find the money to get it to a good mechanic, when you are facing criminal charges, you need to find the money to get a good attorney.
If you can't afford an attorney, you can get court-appointed counsel. They aren't free, they cost $55/hour pflus a $60 appointment fee if you are found or plead guilty, but they do cost less than retaining an attorney.
You can also represent yourself, but, as my colleague Mr. Blau pointed out, by doing that, you miss out on a lot of the benefits your attorney can get for you. In your case, I think you might be missing out on the ability to get your charges dismissed (dropped), which would be an even better outcome than a 90-96.
Whatever you choose, best of luck to you.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to form a client/lawyer relationship. You can contact me for a limited telephone consultation or an email consultation at my website, www.sjfarberlaw.com, which is listed below. In addition to operating my own firm, I also work for North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Inc., a non-profit law firm which exists to protect the rights of prisoners in the custody of the state of North Carolina. If a loved one is in prison in North Carolina, advise the inmate that they may write to North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Inc. NCPLS will review their case at no cost and will litigate at no cost to the inmate if the case meets NCPLS' standards. NCPLS can also provide some assistance to inmates seeking to represent themselves. I am also available for cases that do not deal with inmates incarcerated in North Carolina's jails and prisons.
You have received excellent responses. I would only add that an attorney can help ensure a successful compliance and then can file an expunction on your behalfwhich is designed to erase the case from your record. Every county is different and often other and easier programs are available. The DA won't always advise you of the best resolution.