If you’re wondering, “Can I represent myself in a criminal case Rochester?” the answer theoretically is yes. In fact, it is often a good idea to represent yourself in a criminal case. That’s usually the situation concerning traffic infractions, like speeding tickets. Unless the case is complex, attorneys often only cause a delay. Self-representation might also be better for certain violations, such as hazing, loitering, or trespassing. However, since these offenses could mean jail time, it’s always best for a Rochester criminal defense attorney to at least review the matter.
In other situations, however, self-representation is too risky. There is too much at stake. Misdemeanors and felonies could mean substantial jail time. That doesn’t include collateral consequences, such as immigration effects.
So, you can represent yourself in a Monroe County criminal case. You could also remove your own appendix. Although these things may have been done before, we would not recommend any of them.
Shortly after Monroe County prosecutors file formal charges, the judge rules on important pretrial matters, such as procedural irregularities and evidence admissibility. Experience is key during this portion of a criminal case.
Terms like reasonable suspicion and probable cause are pretty much meaningless to most people. But to experienced attorneys, they are the difference between a legal and illegal arrest. If the stop and/or arrest was illegal, all evidence, including confessions, is the fruit of the poisonous tree.
On a similar note, physical evidence is sometimes admissible and sometimes inadmissible. Even if officers did not have a search warrant, a Monroe County judge might still allow prosecutors to use the evidence in court.
Experience is also important during pretrial hearings themselves. Most criminal judges are not used to dealing with non-lawyers. So, they have very little patience when people speak out of turn or commit other procedural faux pas.
Many people do not see the need for a Rochester criminal defense lawyer during this phase. Generally, that’s because most people do not negotiate financial transactions. When you go to a restaurant or a grocery store, the price is the price. The best lawyer in the world cannot make your hamburger any less expensive.
But negotiating a plea in a criminal case is unlike buying a gallon of milk. It’s more like buying a house. No one pays what the owner asks for. Instead, a realtor negotiates with the owner. Realtors know what similar houses sell for in that area. Likewise, attorneys know what offers prosecutors make in similar cases in that county. So, defendants know if the offer is fair or not.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, attorneys know how to evaluate a case from many different angles. Part of this process includes legal evaluations on the amount of evidence the state can use at trial. There are also some less tangible factors, such as the judge’s disposition and the amount of time that passes between arrest and trial. Only the best Rochester criminal defense lawyers know how to account for such factors.
Plea bargains resolve over 95 percent of all the criminal cases in Monroe County. So, this phase is probably the most important part of the criminal justice process.
If the Matter Goes to Trial, Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Case Rochester?
In the first two phases of a criminal case, defendants basically have an absolute right to represent themselves. They must simply waive their Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Judges usually approve these waivers if defendants understand all the risks involved.
However, if the case goes to trial, the right of self-representation is more limited. Many judges appoint standby counsel in these situations, even if the defendant waives Sixth Amendment rights and objects to the move. These lawyers are available in case the defendants change their minds during the trial. The standby counsel immediately takes over, so there is no need for a mistrial and retrial.
Contact an Experienced Rochester Lawyer
Self-representation in a criminal case is usually, but not always, a very bad idea. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.