Lawyer Referral Service

LRS Blog

Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Jul 1, 2015

man not sure what to do
If you’ve been charged with a crime in Maricopa county, you may have questions about whether or not you should hire a lawyer to handle your case or take your chances with self-representation. Especially in criminal cases, it’s typically best to hire an experienced defense attorney, but it is sometimes common for defendants to represent themselves in the following cases:

  • Some defendants don’t think the likely punishment is severe enough to justify the expense of hiring an attorney. The rule of thumb is that the less severe the charged crime, the safer it is for a defendant to self-represent. For example, defendants charged with minor traffic offenses or shoplifting may get by without hiring an attorney, while defendants in felony cases or violent crimes should always have an attorney.
  • Some defendants may plan to plead guilty to a crime where the punishment is always the same, and hiring a lawyer is not going to change the outcome.
  • Some defendants believe (often mistakenly) that an attorney who represented them previously was not competent, and believe they can do just as well on their own.

Some crimes have sentences that appear relatively minor, but the conviction may have serious consequences down the line. One example of this are convictions for vehicular offenses that result in increased insurance rates. Also, if there’s a second offense, the sentence for the second conviction could end up being much more severe than the first offense.

Before making the decision to represent yourself or hire an attorney, you should learn what the most likely punishment is going to be if convicted, both in the current case and in the future, in case there is a second offense as well as if there are other possible consequences, such as insurance rate hikes. The key to deciding if you need a lawyer is to look at the punishment you’ll face if convicted. The harsher the potential punishment, the more important it is that you are represented by an experienced attorney.