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Can Individuals Represent Themselves without An Attorney?

The Law Office Phillips & Allen PA Nov. 19, 2022

It goes back to the old adage that a person who represents himself has a fool for a client. Even someone who is a lawyer would be well advised to have an attorney speak for them at court. If the person was not an attorney, then it would be like the analogy of going to a gunfight without a gun.

There are a lot of complicated rules and issues in court and there are a lot of things that could either be helpful or hurtful. While there is certainly informative material available on the internet, it is by no means complete and it would by no means prepare someone to defend a case on their own.

What Is The Difference Between Having A Public Defender And A Private Attorney?

There would be two main differences. The first difference would be motivation. Private attorneys make their living based on their reputation, so they need to win. They need to get good results and they need to get results that are better than they should be getting. The second difference would be resources. Public defenders are hired on a salary and they would have huge caseloads to handle so they would just not have the resources to put a lot of time and preparation into individual cases.

Do Clients Felt Hesitant Or Discouraged So They Want To Give Up Or Plead Guilty?

A few times a year I have clients who are frightened and discouraged or feel like they did something wrong so they just want to plead guilty. This would be a bad idea because firstly, rights have been provided for people under the constitution and the bill of rights. The state would have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and it would be smart for a person to use those rights.

Secondly, the person should not plead guilty because then it would go right to sentencing. Even if the person ultimately ended up at a sentencing hearing, there would be a lot of preparation that would have to go into that hearing so that the person would get a much better result.

How Often Would An Attorney Be Able To Get Charges Reduced?

Under the ethics rules, attorneys are not allowed make promises and guarantees, although they would be able to say whether or not there would be a very high probability for them to be able to get some of the charges dismissed or at least reduced in the worst case.

What Should A Client Tell His Attorney That Could Help The Case?

The biggest factor that someone should mention to their attorney in a drunk-driving case is priors. It would be good for the attorney to know up front if their client had any prior arrests or prior convictions. People often do not know exactly what their priors are, but it would still be best to let the attorney know right at the beginning that there might be some skeletons in the closet because that would be the biggest thing.

The person should also mention if they have any other personal problems such as a drug issue, something that may or may not be harmful or helpful depending on the nature of the problem and what the client would be willing to do about it.

They should also mention whether or not the state was aware of it, because if the police in the state were not aware that there was a drug problem in play, then it would generally not be a good idea to bring that up because it would impact what they do and they could order drug testing and probation. The person would be more likely to have supervised probation, longer probation and they would be ordered to get treatment.

The other two major aggravating factors would be whether somebody was hurt as part of the drunk driving, or whether there was property damage or substantial property damage. This would certainly be an aggravating factor, although it could oftentimes be mitigated.

In a recent case, it was a foggy and rainy night; the defendant had too much to drink so he went off the road and went across someone’s yard and hit their wood stove out in the yard. On the surface this would sound quite bad, but when we went to the scene and looked at the pictures, we saw that a few feet to the left of the wood stove was the house, and a few feet to the right of the wood stove was a giant tree that probably would have killed him and his passenger, so while it was bad to go off the road, hitting the wood stove was actually a controlled act, and by far the lesser of the three evils.

That was a fun case to argue because even the judge had to agree that hitting the wood stove was a good thing.

What Are Good Ways To Tell If Someone Has The Right Attorney For A DUI Case?

The most important thing would be to talk to the attorney. The person could ask around, but realistically only be a certain number of people might know any attorneys and there would only be a certain number of people they could talk to. Good attorneys have a good reputation.

Another good place to check would be by speaking to people who are connected to the court. They could also see what they could find on the internet and they could go into the Maryland Judicial Case Search system and put in the attorney’s name to see what he had been up to because they would be able to see a lot of cases if they went in there and put in the attorney’s name.

The person should remember that for every case on the record, there would probably have been another case the attorney had gotten expunged, so for the good attorneys, the person would be able to double down how many cases they could see in the court system.

The most important thing would be to actually to talk to the attorney and see whether the attorney was giving the client his time, whether they were asking very detailed questions, whether they picked up on legal issues and followed up with those questions as the client was talking to them and whether they were able to develop a defense plan. The client should see whether the attorney suggested what he would do and what he would have the client do as part of the defense.

For more information a free consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers by Arnold F. Phillips.