If you find yourself in a courtroom and you aren’t the one initiating the court case, you are most likely the defendant. This is not the position anyone likes to find themselves in. Even the wording on the docket is intimidating, “The State of ________ vs you”. The whole state is against you; at least it may seem that way. Hopefully, you do have someone on your side, your defense attorney.
If you are in a criminal proceeding, you’ve heard the famous line, “You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge if you wish.” All this is said to you because it is the right of a defendant to have a fair trial. Appearing with no defense attorney to represent your interests wouldn’t be considered fair. Also, knowing that if you are unable to afford one, and you will still have an attorney by your side, is a comfort.
Many people think that a defendant has to prove his or her innocence. That is entirely wrong. The prosecution has to prove your guilt. This doesn’t mean that you and your defense attorney can sit back and relax while the prosecution tries to present a case that proves, without a doubt, that you are guilty of the crime. Your defense attorney should be preparing a case refuting any evidence brought forward by the prosecution. You are entitled to a good defense. Even if you are unable to pay for your attorney, the effort they put into your case must be adequate.
Perhaps there is no question that you committed the crime. You have been caught in the act and cannot deny your involvement. Why would you need an attorney now? An attorney who is representing your defense will make sure the charges are not inflated and ensure due process is followed. And there is always the sentencing aspect to deal with. An attorney can help the court understand the circumstances behind the crime and help negotiate a sentence that is less severe.
If the situation occurs where you find yourself accused of a crime, you obviously won’t have time to prepare a legal course of action in advance. The best advice is to request an attorney be present to represent you and ensure your rights are not violated. It is never recommended that you attempt to represent yourself in a criminal matter.