If I can’t afford an attorney and can’t get a public defender, can I go into court by myself?

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If I can’t afford an attorney and can’t get a public defender, can I go into court by myself?

Asked on May 6, 2014 under Criminal Law, New York

Answers:

Richard Southard / Law Office of Richard Southard

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

If the judge permits, you can represent yourself (it's called appearing pro se). It is never to your advantage to do so as your oppoonent (the prosecutor) has been specially trained in how to win their case against you and they likely have years of experience doing so. The typical example is you wouldn't operate on yourself to remove your own appendix, even though you "could".  If you have no assets, then a court should find you indigent and appoint you a public defender.  Unfortunately some people do not want to use their assets, savings, house, car, etc. and feel that taxpayers should pay their legal fees instead.  You are usually entitled to a hearing to determine whether you are eligible for a public defender.

Robert Johnston / Law Office of Robert J. Johnston Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Yes you can. But its highly unadvisable. Its like asking a doctor if you can perform a medical procedure on yourself. You can, but its highly unadvisable. Lawyers can't get into law school until they have completed 4 years of college. Then law school takes 3 to 4 years of full-time studying and learning. Then there is additional training an classses after law school. Then you have to pass the bar exam, which usually takes 3 whole days to take. Then you can apply for your license to practice law. At that point, you have no experience and basically have to start learning.

So yes, you can go to court by yourself. But its not considered the wisest thing a person can do.


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