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CAN I REPRESENT MYSELF IN A FLORIDA CRIMINAL CASE?

Yes, any client can represent him or herself in any Florida criminal case. A lot of my clients start off thinking, "it's a simple case, I'm intelligent and I don't need a lawyer to go to court for me. Think of the money I'll save". Indeed, after a "Faretta Hearing", the Judge may well determine that you are capable of being your own attorney because of education, speaking ability and understanding of the consequences. But there are dangers in representing yourself.

The problem is that is simple factual cases are not always that simple. There are issues that often precede a Florida arrest that you may not be aware of. For example, was your Florida arrest based on an illegal stop or seizure; did the officer have a reasonable suspicion to make an initial investigatory stop? What is an investigatory stop, what is reasonable suspicion and how do you move to throw out illegally obtained evidence? Was there a snitch involved ( for example in a drug case) and can I find out who that was and how do I do that? Was I entrapped into doing what they say I did, and how can I show that? If there is an alibi that I would like to present, what if any notice must I give to the State? How do I get to take witness statements (often called depositions) to know in advance what the proof against me looks like?

When someone elects to represent himself or herself in a Florida criminal case, the Judge will warn that person that there will be no lenience given, as you will be held to the same standards as an attorney. There will be no "pass" because you claim not to be educated in the law or criminal procedure. You will be held to professional standards. Even if you are very bright, very well spoken, you are probably not necessarily schooled in case law, procedure or even basic cross examination. Lawyers get paid because they know all of these things.

As an attorney with over thirty (30) years of Florida criminal law experience I am aware of these issues. I can explain them to you and tell you how they may well influence your Florida criminal case. I will give honest and straight forward advice to you if you choose to be your own attorney. But I will also remind you of a very old saying in lawyer circles, a defendant who represents himself has a fool for a client .Although I strongly believe in your right to self-representation, I will remind you of that old expression as it may well prove to be your undoing.



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