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Can I Appear at my Los Angeles DUI Pre-Trial Without an Attorney?

  • September 1, 2017

    You’ve gotten a DUI. While this can be an incredibly stressful event in life, it is essential to know your rights in the process. Even though your case is pending in criminal court, you should know your protected Constitutional Rights, the first of those rights being to legal representation. If you are not fully educated on the criminal justice process for a DUI conviction, entering a plea without attorney representation is inadvisable. A plea can have serious adverse consequences involving your freedom and the retention of your rights. An attorney can be provided by the state if you cannot afford one in order to ensure that you have an understanding of your rights before negligently and irreversibly waiving them.

    If you so choose, you can be your own legal representation throughout the court process (although not advisable). If this is the route you opt to take, you should be advised that self- representation does not give you special consideration during any of the hearings. You will need to educate yourself on procedural standards. The same laws and deadlines an attorney would need to adhere to will apply to you (as your own attorney).

    If you find that you have gotten yourself in too deep you are able to ask the Judge for a continuance so that you can obtain paid legal counsel. The courts realize that even though legal representation is your Constitutional Right, not everyone can afford to pay the price for a lawyer. If you find that you cannot afford to hire an attorney the Judge will determine whether or not you qualify for a public defender based on your personal finances. If the Judge finds that you are qualified, the court will appoint your attorney for you, you will not be able to choose your attorney.

    Do not be mistaken, even though a public defender is at little or no cost to you, these are still paid attorneys and are equally as competent as any other defense attorney. The problem with public defense is that their caseload is so heavy that they end up being able to dedicate minimal time for review of each case prior to going before the Judge. If you are able to retain a greater Los Angeles private criminal defense attorney, you are able to screen attorneys to be sure that they are competent and have the time to work on your case. Private attorneys have teams that can obtain possession of discovery surveillance, perform depositions, conference with the prosecuting attorney and properly prepare argument and defense for you as a client.

    If you have (or are planning to) choose to represent yourself at a pretrial, you likely plead not guilty (thus declining the offer for a plea bargain). You do not have experience the way a criminal defense attorney is and cannot gauge whether or not a plea bargain is beneficial. Declining can be detrimental. The offer that was set forth at the arraignment may not be available once the pretrial begins. An assessment of the facts of your case and all evidence entered into court record will tell an attorney whether or not a plea bargain should be accepted. You will not know the red flags and warning signs an experienced attorney knows in order to assess whether or a not a case should be sent to trial. Going to trial runs a risk of the full sentence as stated in the vehicle code. Attorneys who do not advise this risk will advise their client to accept the offer that has been put on the table.

    Even though it is your choice to be your own representation throughout criminal proceedings, it is extremely advisable to have a legal professional advise you (especially during your pretrial). If you find that you need extra time to find the attorney that is right for you and/or to seek assistance from family and friends for your legal fees remember that it is your right to request a continuance from the Judge. At times, it becomes necessary to weigh the risks and understand that in certain situations you get what you pay for. When it comes to your freedom being on the line, this would be one of those occasions.

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