When you are charged with a crime, you face some very important decisions. Some defendants will choose to represent themselves, but estimates say this number is somewhere around as low as 1% of all defendants. Given this, do you think it is a smart idea to go to criminal trial with legal representation or none at all?

Prosecution and Community
A black man with hands outside the bars of a prison cellIf a defendant chooses to represent themselves, the first thing they will typically do is turn to books and online resources. However, real attorneys go through a vigorous training process for their necessary work with many years of college. One thing you need to understand is that prosecutors need to decide whether or not to file criminal charges, which is a huge decision and puts your life in their hands. On paper, something may look like a small crime but be compromised of much larger crimes when it all comes down to it.

There are also pressures by the community. For instance, the public can be all fired up about a case and expect the system to be ultra-tough on them. The system is not immune from the pressures of what the public wants. The world of criminal law is vast and unpredictable so it is a good idea to have legal representation on your side.

What Can I Expect From an Attorney?

  • Attorneys may be able to negotiate with prosecutors. This may get you reduced charges and lesser sentences, which may not have happened if you had self-represented yourself.
  • Tailor sentencing to the defendant’s needs so that defendants can avoid future brushes with the criminal justice system.
  • Provide defendants with a reality check by offering their perspective on the situation and what will likely happen at trial.
  • They are familiar with the customs and procedures that are not written down elsewhere for defendants to have access to.
  • They may understand the possible hidden costs of pleading guilty that a self-represented person may not know about.
  • They can gather information from prosecution witnesses. Witnesses are most likely to speak to defense attorneys or their investigators.
  • An attorney can assist in hiring and managing an investigator.

Free Legal Representation
You may qualify for free legal aid based on your income, health status, safety, location, or whether your issue is civil or criminal. Here are some reasons why you may qualify for legal aid:

  • Threatened Liberty: If you have been accused of a crime and your liberty is threatened because you face going to jail, you may be represented by a public defender.
  • Poor or Needy: If you can’t afford an attorney, you may qualify for indigent representation. Under this, you may need to partially reimburse the court for the cost of legal services given to you.
  • Victim of Domestic Violence: If you fear for your safety or have been abused in the past, you may get free legal aid to help gather evidence for trial or file for a restraining order.
  • Household Income Within Threshold: If your income is below the national average for the number of people in your household, you may qualify. This is based on if your income is less than 125% of the federally recognized poverty level.
  • Disabled Veteran: Mentally and physically disabled veterans may be eligible for free legal aid on issues like rent assistance or child visitation.
  • Immigrant Status: Immigrants may receive free legal aid for things like visa applications, green cards, deportation proceedings, and work authorizations.
  • Civil Rights Issue: If something has the potential to become a larger class-action suit, you may qualify for aid.
  • Community Organization: Communities may deal with issues such as neighborhood deterioration, inadequate housing, unemployment, substance abuse, and more. They may qualify for legal aid through non-profit programs offered.
  • Living With HIV/AIDS: Those living with HIV/AIDS can enlist in programs sometimes to help them get free legal aid. This aid can help with estate planning issues, employment or housing discrimination, insurance difficulties, family law questions, and more.
  • Financial Assistance in Other Programs: If you receive other financial assistance, you may be eligible for legal aid as well.

If you are facing criminal charges, an attorney that you can trust is always in your best interest! If you believe you qualify for free legal aid, this may also be something to consider. Call The Blair Law Firm today to speak to an experienced attorney that can help you every step of the way in your case.