You’ve been charged with a crime, and you are wondering whether you need to hire a defense lawyer. Maybe you are concerned about the cost, or maybe you think you can outsmart the prosecutor and win your case on your own. Whatever your circumstances may be, you are on the fence about hiring a lawyer, and you need to decide whether to seek legal representation or handle your case pro se.
While many criminal defendants have these thoughts, the reality is that trying to handle your case on your own is a mistake. There are too many issues, too many steps, and too many risks involved. Not only can an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer represent you in court, but your lawyer can seek to resolve your case out of court as well favorably, and your lawyer can help you make smart decisions with your freedom, your future, and your family in mind.
10 Things that Can Go Wrong if You Don’t Hire a Defense Lawyer
To help illustrate the point, here are 10 examples of things that can go wrong if you don’t hire a defense lawyer to represent you:
1. Missing a Court Date
Your first court date is your arraignment, and it takes place shortly after your arrest (your arraignment date should be listed on your summons). If you miss a court date, the judge could issue a “bench warrant” for your arrest, and you could face additional challenges in fighting your criminal charge.
2. Entering the Wrong Plea
If you show up to your arraignment, the judge will ask you to enter a plea. Should you plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest? Once you decide, there generally isn’t any going back.
3. Missing the Opportunity for Pretrial Diversion
If this is your first time being charged with a crime, you might be eligible for one of Pennsylvania’s pretrial diversion programs. These programs allow you to avoid entering a plea, and they allow you to avoid going to court entirely (aside from your arraignment) if you meet all of the requirements. However, each program has its own eligibility criteria, and there are specific steps you need to take to seek pretrial diversion.
4. Missing the Opportunity to Have Your Charges Dismissed
In some cases, criminal defendants can have their charges dismissed before trial. If your charges are dismissed, your case is over – completely over – and you can get back to your normal life.
But, to have your charges dismissed, you need to know when dismissal is warranted, and you need to know how to argue for dismissal effectively. Both of these require the knowledge and insights of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
5. Missing the Opportunity to Negotiate a Plea Deal
If you can’t get your charges dismissed, and if it is not in your interests to go to trial, then you might need to try to negotiate a plea deal. But, to do so, you need to have a clear understanding of the facts of your case, the relevant law, and the defenses you have available. If you don’t know everything you need to know, you won’t negotiate effectively, and the prosecutor might not take your attempts to negotiate seriously.
6. Overlooking Possible Defenses
There are several possible defenses to all types of criminal charges in Pennsylvania—including defenses you can assert even if you broke the law. Did the police stop you without “reasonable suspicion”? Did they arrest you without “probable cause”? Is the prosecutor’s office withholding exculpatory evidence? If you don’t know the answers to these types of questions, you won’t be able to assess the grounds for fighting your criminal case fully.
7. Asserting “Defenses” That Don’t Work
Just as failing to assert available defenses can lead to a conviction, so can asserting “defenses” that don’t actually work. For example, “I didn’t realize it was illegal” is not a defense to most criminal charges in Pennsylvania. If you try to handle your case on your own, you could very easily end up admitting guilt instead of defending yourself.
8. Empaneling a Biased Jury
Before your case goes to trial, it will go through the jury selection process. This part of the process is essential, as it is designed to help ensure that all jury members can objectively analyze the facts and render an unbiased verdict. Unfortunately, bias is a very real issue in Philadelphia, and empaneling a biased jury could doom your defense regardless of the facts at hand.
9. Allowing Inadmissible Evidence in Court
The prosecution has the burden of proving your guilt, and this means that the prosecution needs evidence that it can present in court. However, there are a variety of issues that can render evidence legally inadmissible. If you know when the prosecution’s evidence is inadmissible, you can fight to have it excluded from your case. But, if you don’t, you could end up getting convicted based on evidence that should have never made its way into your trial.
10. Receiving a Wrongful Conviction or Sentence
Ultimately, the risk of trying to defend yourself is that you will be wrongfully convicted. You could also receive a sentence that violates Pennsylvania law or the U.S. Constitution. If this is a risk you can afford to take, then, by all means, try to defend yourself. But, if it isn’t, then you should hire a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer to get to work on your case today.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Fishman
If you have questions about what a defense lawyer can do to help you, feel free to schedule a complimentary initial consultation at the Fishman Firm in Philadelphia, PA. To discuss your case with Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Brian Fishman, call 267-758-2228 or request an appointment online now.