Do I need a criminal lawyer?
Not every legal matter requires the use of a lawyer. If you are going to the small claims court or fighting a speeding ticket you may choose to represent yourself.
However, in many situations you may not wish to chance the risks of going it alone without the advice of an experienced lawyer to guide you. It is a good idea to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a solicitor when deciding what is best for you.
When pleading guilty
- An experienced lawyer knows the legal system and sentencing laws inside out and understands how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
- A good criminal lawyer knows what a court wants to hear, how to present the best case and will make their submissions accordingly.
- They also understand what a court does not want to hear and will not make representations that will anger the magistrate and make matters worse.
- A good criminal lawyer will highlight your most positive attributes and present your personal situation to the court in the best possible light.
- They will also ensure your character references are well written so that the magistrate gains a clear understanding of your personal circumstances.
- Magistrates are aware that a lawyer is costing you money and retaining legal representation shows the court that you are taking the matter seriously.
The main (and often only) disadvantage of retaining a lawyer to represent you is the financial cost. In most cases however the better outcome is worth the expense.
Every person is in a unique position and the stakes involved in each matter will be different. Cases can arise occasionally where using a lawyer will make little difference to the outcome, but these cases are not common. A good criminal lawyer will be able to assess your case and be upfront with you if they don’t think their legal representation will be worthwhile in your situation.
When pleading not guilty
- The police may have charged you with the wrong offence, or a more serious offence than is justified. A good lawyer will be able to negotiate with the police to reduce or dismiss these charges on your behalf.
- A good criminal lawyer will be able to advise whether you should be pleading guilty to any charges at all. Many people plead guilty when told by police that they have committed a crime – often this is not the right thing to do.
- A good defence lawyer will know when the case against you is strong and will only present defences that will enhance your case and get you the best possible outcome.
- An experienced lawyer will be familiar with a number of technical loopholes which could lead to your charges being dismissed.
- A good criminal lawyer understands the rules of evidence and knows the best way to question a witness effectively.
- Persuasive submissions and good cross examination skills are developed over time, and experienced lawyer will be able to use these highly developed skills to your advantage.
- The law is very complex. A good lawyer will know the legal complexities of each offence and will be able to determine whether the police will be able to prove their case against you.
- Experienced solicitors are highly skilled in preparing criminal cases, researching the law, contacting witnesses, gathering evidence and preparing statements – professionally, confidentially and with minimum disruption to your personal and professional life.
The only disadvantage of being legally represented when pleading not guilty is the cost involved. You will need to consider your personal position when deciding whether the cost of retaining a good lawyer will be worth it.
Asking some of the following questions may help you decide.
What is at stake for you personally?
Are you fighting the charges on principle, are you fighting to keep your job, do you need to travel overseas, are you fighting to preserve your good record, or are you fighting a custodial sentence?
Is there a financial cost if I lose the case?
Will I have to pay the other parties legal costs, will I lose my job and my income or will I have to pay a substantial fine?
What is your financial position?
How much can you afford to pay for legal representation? Do you have family or friends who can assist you financially in a time of need?
Are you eligible to apply for legal aid?
Are you prepared to accept the more limited level of service which legal aid is able to provide?