The criminal justice system can be a confusing and stressful environment for someone who isn’t acquainted with it. The process of navigating a criminal charge, investigation and trial can be disorienting and hard to understand without competent advice and the support of family, friends and most importantly, learned counsel.
Some people make the mistake of trying to defend themselves without the benefit of an attorney. What these defendants fail to understand is the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment recognizes every criminal defendant’s right to be represented during any prosecution by their own attorney. The framers of the nation considered this to be so central to the fabric of the United States they enshrined it alongside numerous other rights of the accused in our founding document.
Even if a defendant can’t afford to hire their own nyc dwi attorney, the state must appoint one. This was one of the key results of the Miranda v. Arizona ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 1966. It is recognizable to most people because of the ubiquitous “Miranda Warning” common to every police drama on television.
If you are facing a criminal charge, here are some things to consider before you decide to “go it alone.”
Among the many important things your attorney will tell you if you retain one is the fact there is absolutely nothing you can say during a police interrogation that can help you. Not only could you unnecessarily entangle yourself in a web of circumstantial evidence by answering ambiguous questions, even exculpatory testimony can’t be used to help you at trial.
If the police ask you a question, even if you provide them with incontrovertible proof of your innocence, your answer to their question can’t be entered into evidence. If you call the police officer to the stand and ask them to tell the jury about your answer during the interrogation, the prosecutor will object on hearsay grounds and the judge will sustain the objection. The police cannot testify as to what they heard you say days or weeks before. They can only testify about evidence of your guilt.
This, among other things, is why your nyc criminal lawyer will tell you to remain silent no matter what.
Rules of Evidence
Every criminal defense attorney has beaten charges before they ever get near a jury. Defense attorneys challenge evidence during pre-trial motions in almost every case they take. Getting testimony thrown out over improper interrogations, getting seized evidence thrown out due to unjustified or insufficient warrants and filing motions to dismiss based on faulty or incomplete proof of the elements of a crime are routine matters for defense attorneys.
For an untrained criminal defendant, on the other hand, simply drafting a motion to dismiss a criminal charge would be a Herculean feat beyond all reason or belief. Getting the motion granted would simply be impossible. The rules of evidence alone are enough to keep law students occupied for months of study. They are simply beyond a lay person’s capacity to understand or navigate.
Missing an opportunity to get charges dismissed due to faulty police work or evidence can easily become a catastrophic mistake.
If you are not trained in the law, ask yourself this question: what can a trial attorney do in a cross examination during a criminal case that they can’t do during direct examination? If you don’t know the answer to that question, or more importantly, if you don’t know the difference between direct and cross examination, then you are not prepared to defend yourself in front of a jury.
The answer is an attorney can ask leading questions during cross-examination. The reason for this is that courts recognize witnesses under cross-examination can be hostile. Since every defendant has the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against them, courts grant certain concessions in order to preserve this right.
Recognizing you are out of your element is the first step towards a successful conclusion to your criminal case. It’s one thing to fantasize about beating the charge without spending a dime on an attorney. But when you are facing the real world where there are real consequences for failing to take your situation seriously, your best option is to retain counsel and let them do their job.