The United States Constitution and Nevada law give you the right to represent yourself in a court proceeding. It’s called representing yourself “pro se” or “in pro per.” But should you? We generally don’t think so, but let’s review how it works.
Recently, Mr. Chan Park was found soaked in blood on a couch inside a Spring Valley home. His mother was beaten and bloody, her body duct-taped. Her boyfriend was located in a car nearby, suffering from several stab wounds. He died a month later.
Mr. Park was charged with murdering his mother’s boyfriend and attempting to kill his mother.
As the case proceeded through the pre-trial process, Mr. Park had three different attorneys. Eventually, he decided to represent himself.
In his motion, he wrote that he was “confident in his ability to construct cogent arguments and defend his case at trial with learning of legal procedures and rules from research material and aid provided by the court with sufficient preparation time….Effects will continue to be made to submit legal papers with correct legal writings and citations as possible within custody under layman’s form.”
District Judge Tierra Jones thoroughly questioned Mr. Park, to make sure he understood the implications of representing himself. This is called a Faretta canvas. Towards the end, Judge Jones told Mr. Park:
“It’s almost always unwise for a defendant on trial to try and represent themselves, because you are not familiar with the law, you are not familiar with the handling of a trial, you are not familiar with the court procedures, you are not familiar with the rules of evidence, you are not familiar with the punishment you face, you don’t know the elements of the crimes with which you are charged….So I would strongly urge you not to try to represent yourself.”
Mr. Park remained non-plussed and firm in his decision. The judge tried one last time to dissuade the defendant, asking if he had ever heard the “old saying that any man who’s his own lawyer has a fool for a client?”
The defendant’s response was basically incoherent. Nevertheless, consistent with federal and Nevada law, the judge has reluctantly allowed Mr. Park to represent himself.
Maybe it’s okay for an infraction like a minor traffic violation
In most cases, especially with felonies and misdemeanors, you’re much better off with a lawyer. Many criminal convictions, like a DUI or domestic violence charge, carry serious penalties. Prison time, fines, loss of gun rights, loss of employment, and many other consequences make fighting your criminal case a priority.
Hiring an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorney with the requisite experience and knowledge to litigate your case may mean the difference between prison time and probation, or possibly even an acquittal.
If you’re being investigated, or have been arrested or charged with a crime, it may be tempting to represent yourself. But we recommend acquiring legal counsel. Contact our attorneys today so they can provide you the representation you deserve.