The criminal justice system is very serious, and being accused of a crime – even a relatively minor one – can have huge impacts on your life. Even for relatively minor offenses, you can be arrested. Fines and court costs can be expensive. Potentials for jail time, or even forced supervision from probation and bail, puts serious constraints on your ability to freely travel, follow your own schedule, and do what you want to do. Your freedom is literally at stake when you are accused of a crime.
Because this is so serious, everyone in the United States has a right to an attorney, contained in the U.S. Constitution’s 6th Amendment. This is one of those rights that protects us, but we have to ask to use our right. That often means hiring one yourself.
Can I Handle My Case Without a Lawyer in Southern New Jersey?
Technically, you can handle a case yourself – but it is not a good idea. If someone wants to represent themselves in court – called proceeding “pro se” – they are held to the same standards, rules, and deadlines that someone who has studied for three years in law school and passed the bar in New Jersey would be held to. That means they are responsible for knowing the Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Evidence, courtroom etiquette, how to talk to a judge, how to talk to opposing counsel, how to receive discovery, how to file motions, and what to write in a motion.
Lawyers train in law school for some of this, but really only learn the rest by actually practicing for a few years. The bar association exists because lawyers do not want to risk someone’s freedom on poor representation, and it only certifies lawyers who have proven their knowledge of the law.
For most things, if you are not an expert, you hire someone who is. Auto mechanics, plumbers, and carpenters all work in their areas of expertise – and people hire them for their expertise and professional opinion. Lawyers perform the same sort of services.
What Does an Attorney Do?
An attorney, especially a criminal defense attorney, is a protection between a defendant and authority. Police and prosecutors have the goal of putting people in jail and getting convictions, and judges are only there to make sure things are somewhat fair. Without a criminal defense attorney, there is no one else in your corner when you are accused of a crime. You might have family and friends to support you, but they are legally barred from helping in your defense; only an attorney is permitted to stand up for you.
Most crimes – especially common crimes like drug possession, driving while intoxicated, theft, etc. – are not especially unique. After a few years of practice, defense attorneys have seen that most cases follow a pattern and know how to handle them because they have handled similar cases before. This experience helps them identify holes in the case, missing proof, and where a plea deal is most effective.
Nearly every case that goes through the criminal justice system ends without a trial – but that does not mean they are simple. There are still deadlines, arguments to be made before a judge, motions to file, and requests to be made in every case. These require an attorney’s ability and experience to properly frame the issues, properly file documents, and make the right arguments. Attorneys also bring their knowledge of other cases and their outcomes to the table. Without an attorney, you miss out on most of these opportunities, and may lose your freedom because of it.
Not only does hiring an attorney put a trained, experienced professional in your corner, it takes the pressure off you. An attorney’s job encompasses advice, strategy, negotiation, education, and analysis – they provide a full service to clients. Without an attorney, this pressure is all on you.
Speak to a South Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
Public defenders are only available after showing proof that you are not able to afford an attorney. That means that most people will be denied access to a public defender on a financial basis. In that case, it is up to you to find an attorney yourself.
Even if you are given the opportunity to use a public defender, you may not want to. Public defenders are held to the same standards as other attorneys, but usually suffer from a high case load. Hiring an attorney of your choice ensures that they have the time and care to focus on your case.
If you or your child has been arrested in South Jersey, do not face the case alone. When your freedom is on the line, and you face fines, forced supervision, or physical lockup, it is best to have someone on your side. The Law Offices of John Zarych has over thirty years of legal experience defending people charged with a crime, and can defend you, too. Call (609) 625-3006 for a free, no-obligation consultation with our attorneys.