The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution grants citizens the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay and to be informed of the charges against him. The accused is also entitled to legal counsel, which the Supreme Court held in Faretta v. California (1975) includes the right to self-representation at trial. Although it is a Constitutional right, not everyone may exercise the right to represent himself at trial. In most criminal defense cases, it is best to seek counsel from an experienced defense attorney.
Faretta v. California
In Faretta v. California, defendant Anthony Faretta was accused of grand theft in L.A. Before the trial started, he asked to represent himself. When the judge questioned him, the judge discovered that Faretta had previously represented himself in a criminal case. Faretta also believed that the public defender’s office had too many cases to handle. Afterward, the judge wasn’t too sure if he should be allowed to represent himself, deeming him unqualified to do so.
After a long journey through the state court system, Faretta made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the high court held that a defendant has the constitutional right to refuse appointed counsel and represent himself in a criminal trial.
Who can represent himself in court?
In order to represent yourself, a judge must consider you “legally competent.” Society benefits from a fair trial, and if you are not competent to represent yourself, the trial becomes unfair. There are a few key factors a judge considers when determining competence:
- The defendant’s age
- The defendant’s education
- The defendant’s familiarity with English
- The severity of the crime for which the defendant was charged
You do not have to have legal knowledge and skills equivalent to those of a criminal defense attorney to qualify for self-representation; however, you must be competent and knowingly desert your right to an attorney. In addition, a judge may deem you to be competent enough to stand trial but not enough to represent yourself. You may also be appointed standby counsel to ensure that the trial runs smoothly as you exercise your right.
Benefits of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer in West Palm Beach
From the years of experience representing clients facing similar charges to dedicating an entire career to protecting your rights, criminal defense lawyers are invaluable assets to have when one faces charges. A quality lawyer will investigate all the facts of your case to thoroughly understand the situation that led to your arrest. In this way, he or she will select the best defense strategy for the case at hand.
Defense lawyers generally have connections with others in the legal industry. Your defense lawyer has likely worked with the judge who will sit on your case previously, and has developed a rapport with him or her. Lawyers may also file motions to suppress certain kinds of evidence that may hurt your case. Your lawyer may already have an established relationship with the prosecutor of your case, which may make it easier to reduce or eliminate the charges against you.
Strong Representation is Preferred to Self-Representation
There are times when you may consider representing yourself, such as if you don’t think you can afford a private attorney, but the court believes you make too much income to be appointed a public defender. Unless you yourself have ample experience in today’s criminal defense world, you run a substantial risk of failing to obtain the desired results. It takes years of legal education and experience to develop a compelling case. At The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel, attorney Brian Gabriel has practiced criminal defense as a trial lawyer for over 30 years. He will use his experience to provide thorough counsel and personalized attention for the best possible outcome. Don’t take your chances, call (561) 622-5575 or complete a contact form for a free legal consultation.