What Should You Consider Before Deciding to Represent Yourself in an Alabama Criminal Trial?

We see it in the movies and sometimes even in the courtroom – people accused of a criminal offense who decline their right to an attorney and try to defend themselves. While our goal isn’t to tell you that nobody should ever attempt this, as attorneys who spend countless hours in Alabama criminal court, we would certainly never advise it.

There are several questions you should ask yourself before you commit to representing yourself. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already considering it, so let’s delve into some critical questions you should be asking.

Do You Have a Law Degree or Know the Law Well Enough?

This isn’t meant to diminish your knowledge or experiences, but consider this: Would you go to a dentist who never went to dental school? Would you trust the medical advice of a “doctor” who never actually got a degree and holds no validity in the title of “doctor”?

If you have a law degree, you might have the capability to handle your case on your own. You at least have the knowledge to operate within the Alabama legal system, but there’s another consideration – lawyers have lawyers too. Understanding the law does not automatically mean you will win your case. The other side knows the law, too. One of the biggest reasons to have an attorney, even if you are an attorney yourself, is because you are the one accused of a crime. You cannot reasonably give yourself a neutral, third-party perspective on your case when you are the one under scrutiny. Your attorney’s job is more than knowing the law – it’s understanding the circumstances and opportunities of your case as well.

Would You Be Willing to Pay to Stay Out of Jail?

If someone came up to you right now and put you in handcuffs, giving you the option to either spend a few years to life in prison or pay $10,000 to get out of jail, would you pay it?

This is often the decision you make when hiring an attorney. While $10,000 is a general number and not a reflection of our actual costs (as those vary depending on the time spent on your case and the needs of your trial), paying for an attorney significantly increases your chances of staying out of jail.

In some cases, it doesn’t matter whether you are guilty or innocent – it matters how good your lawyer is. We’d love to say the criminal justice system is fair and consistent, but the fact is that the truth doesn’t always prevail, and your attorney should be adept at making your circumstances work in your favor.

Have You At Least Met With an Attorney?

You may be leaning towards representing yourself. We won’t force you to commit to anything, but have you at least talked to an attorney about your case?

At John M. Totten, P.C., we know good people need good lawyers. We understand Alabama criminal law. Before you commit to representing yourself in your Alabama criminal case, talk to our team, and we can work together to determine if hiring an attorney is your best option.

John M. Totten