After being charged with a crime, many people turn to a lawyer for help. In fact, the right to have a lawyer represent you in a criminal matter is a right given to everyone under the Constitution. However, some people decide that they would rather represent themselves in the judicial system. These people are called Pro Se litigants. Pro Se is a Latin term meaning “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf.”
In determining whether an individual is capable of representing themselves as a Pro Se litigant in a criminal matter, a judge must decide whether an individual is competent. To do this, a judge will look at some of the following factors:
- The defendant’s level of education;
- The defendant’s age;
- The defendant’s ability to speak and understand English; and
- The nature and severity of the crime with which the defendant is charged.
Although this list is not definitive, it covers many of the basic things a judge is looking for in evaluating a defendant’s ability to represent themselves. If the judge approves, the defendant must willingly and knowingly give up their right to an attorney. After doing this, the defendant will be allowed to proceed with their case.
Consequences of Being a Pro Se Litigant
Deciding to represent oneself Pro Se carries significant legal consequences. A person representing himself pro se is treated as an attorney for the purposes of the hearings and trial connected to the criminal charges and is expected to know the rules of evidence and procedure as if they were an attorney that had graduated law school and passed the bar exam. The evidence rules and criminal procedure that governs a criminal case are highly technical. If you are considering representing yourself in a criminal matter it would be wise to consult with an attorney so that you can make an informed decision about whether pro se representation is your best option.
If you or someone you know have been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.