Do I Really Need a Criminal Lawyer?
The short answer is – no. A lawyer is not a necessity nor a requirement for court.
A person has the right to appear in court unrepresented, regardless of whether their matter is in the Local, District, Supreme or any other Court. There are some minor exceptions to this whereby a legal practitioner will be assigned to an unrepresented person for the purpose of cross-examining vulnerable persons or alleged victims of certain crimes.
A better question to ask yourself or your loved one who is appearing in court is, “Should I get a lawyer?”
The short answer to that question is – yes.
Whether you’re facing a criminal conviction for the first time, the loss of your licence or the prospect of a jail sentence there is always a lot on the line. Not only is there a lot at stake but apeparing in court is a daunting process and is made all the more difficult by the complex rules, practices and procedures that exist in our criminal justice system.
An unrepresented defendant will be assisted by the presiding judicial officer, but only to a certain extent. A judicial officer cannot give an unrepresented defendant legal advice. They cannot advise them on how they should plead, what evidence they should call, what evidence might be detrimental to their case and when they might wish to object to evidence being led by the prosecution – among other things. While some evidence will not be admissible, and will be deemed so by the judicial officer, some evidence will be admissible unless an objection is raised.
To give yourself the best chance of obtaining the best possible outcome in the circumstances you should get legal advice and representation from an early opportunity. Every decision along the way counts. Legal advice prior to deciding whether or not to give a statement to police can shape the defences or options available to you. Working with a lawyer to determine what evidence to lead in your trial can make the difference between being found guilty or not guilty and deciding what evidence to tender in your sentencing hearing can make the difference between a conviction and a non-conviction.
An unrepresented defendant often lacks the knowledge, skill and experience that their opponent, the prosecution, has. They are at an instant disadvantage. An unrepresented defendant may also struggle with answering any legal questions or issues raised by the judicial officer.
Criminal law, evidence law and court practice and procedure are all extremely complex. A law degree is only a starting point. Criminal Lawyers have knowledge, skill and experience when it comes to criminal matters. They are well practiced in the art of advocacy and communication in the court room. These are things that are very useful when one comes head to head with the prosecution in court.
Regardless of whether your matter is your first offence for drink driving in the Local Court or a much more serious offence which you wish to take to trial in the District Court choosing the right criminal lawyer will always increase your chances of obtaining the best outcome. The right lawyer will assist you from start to finish and ensure every decision along the way is the best one. From helping you select and review your character references to conducting the sentence hearing on your behalf, a lawyer will apply the relevant legal and evidentiary principles to ensure the best case is advocated on your behalf.
WHERE TO NEXT?
In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.