Should I Represent Myself in Court?

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The question comes up in many cases of so-called minor crimes and misdemeanors. “Can’t I represent myself?”

My answer is that no person should represent himself or herself in a civil or criminal case. It’s just too difficult and specialized and so many regret the decision. There’s an old saying, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” I would expand on that to read: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client and a fool for a lawyer.” I don’t know how many times I have been asked this question. “Can I do it myself?” I usually respond by asking if they had a notion to fly to the moon, would they take up a wrench and screwdriver and start building a rocket ship?

Here are some reasons PEOPLE should not represent THEMSELVES IN COURT:

1. The criminal justice system is a world you’re not expecting.

Some people believe they can walk into court and explain things to a fair and compassionate judge and things will work out for the best. This is wrong on so many counts it’s hard to know where to start.

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DUIs, Sobriety Tests, and Evidence

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Statistics are all over the place on DUIs, how many, how many in each county, how many result in death or serious injury.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk driving crashes – that’s one person every 48 minutes in 2017.”  So it’s a serious problem. The Tampa Legal Team and Joseph J. Registrato, Esq., are experienced in handling DUIs, challenging the validity of sobriety tests, and evaluating the evidence.

But at the center of this serious problem is often an average person who made a mistake, a mistake that harmed no one.   That aside, our average person is going to pay a high price — including being handcuffed and taken to jail where he will spend the night locked in a cell, then later on, two or three court appearances, a year on probation, a criminal record, loss of his driver’s license, and more than a thousand dollars in fines and costs.  Unless he can get a business purposes driver’s license, he may very well lose his job.  All that will happen because, in one police officer’s opinion, the average person was “under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired.”

But what about the breathalyzer?  It’s an important part of DUI law, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story, or even the correct story.   Despite the breathalyzer, a DUI conviction is often based on one person’s opinion.   For some lucky people, there is an alternate ending to this story, which we will get to shortly.    

Take this scenario, which is played out daily in every city from Miami to Anchorage.   A man or woman named Sam (or Samantha) is at a restaurant for a birthday party or a get together of co-workers from a downtown Tampa office.  Age doesn’t matter, nor does station in life, position, annual salary, or marital status.   Everyone, at one time or another, has been in Sam’s shoes.  Most people are drinking alcoholic beverages, vodka Martinis, rum and Coke, Scotch and Soda.  There’s food, too, appetizers mostly, shrimp on a skewer, rice bowls, chips and dip.  The mood is high, people are laughing and having fun; beer and wine and other booze is flowing freely.   Nobody is even thinking about Sam’s criminal culpability, he “looks fine,” and nobody’s worried about him.

After a few drinks, Sam feels the effects of the alcohol, (buzz), but has no trouble navigating the short walk to the rest room and then after a last drink, heads to his car for the ten-minute ride home.  Sam gives no thought to being “under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired;” in fact he’s never heard that combination of words used in a sentence.   

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