Can a Person Successfully Represent Themselves in a DUI Case?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jan 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

Can a Person Handle Their Own Georgia DUI Case?

To be clear, you are 100% legally entitled to handle any part of your own criminal or DUI case.  In fact, you have the right to represent yourself in any legal matter whatsoever.

The issue is whether acting “pro se” (on one's behalf) is a smart move.  Based on our considerable experience we feel that your probability of a desirable outcome is slight when defending yourself.  The consequences of not having the best defense could result in jail-time and significant fines.  People also unnecessarily lose their driver's licenses.  While expert defense cannot guarantee a desirable outcome, it will ensure your bests interests are protected at every step in the process.


Well, the answer is very simple; when a criminal defendant represents him or herself, they are held to the same standards as if they had an attorney. There is no “do over.”  I receive several calls a week from people who have improperly handled their cases.

 The mistakes include, but are not limited to:

  • Failing to file the ALS Appeal (the 30-day letter);
  • Not including the $150 filing fee with ALS Letter;
  • Failing to file the letter via certified mail with a return receipt, resulting in no proof of mailing;
  • Missing court dates;
  • Making admissions to prosecutors during discussions about the case;
  • Not knowing how to get copies of incident reports and videos;
  • Improperly evaluating the evidence in a case thereby missing potential defenses while at the same time focusing on matters that have no merit;
  • Not filing motions to suppress and motions in Limine timely, resulting in waiving the legal challenges to the admissibility and sufficiency of the evidence;
  • Having the inability to know what would be an appropriate negotiated settlement of their case;
  • Not knowing how to prepare for trial;
  • Not knowing how to present their case in trial;
  • Not knowing when a bench or jury trial is appropriate for their case;
  • Not knowing how to make objections and preserve issues for appeal;
  • Failing to present evidence in mitigation in the event of a conviction;
  • Failing to understand the collateral consequences of their actions insofar as their case is concerned;
  • Most importantly, not having the ability to evaluate objectively their situation because of the emotions associated with being a criminal defendant.

The result is a person who will either be needlessly convicted or at a minimum unnecessarily punished where many other options likely existed.  The worst part is, by the time people call a Georgia DUI Lawyer, it is too late.  As mentioned before, there are no do-overs in the legal system.  Even people who realize they need counsel before their case is adjudicated may have already caused themselves irreparable harm because of missed filing deadlines. 

If a person cannot afford counsel, I am extremely sympathetic.  Contact the public defender's office as soon as possible.  However, there are two other situations where people make poor judgments.

My Georgia DUI Case is simple, so I can handle it myself.

As I said to someone recently, if you step on a nail, and it goes through your foot entirely, would you just pull it out or go to the hospital?  For those who do not value a doctor's role in a medical emergency or an attorney's role in a legal crisis, I cannot help you.

I am innocent, and the prosecutor or court should dismiss my case.

Guilty people need representation to negotiate the best possible plea agreement in their cases.  Having a qualified Georgia DUI Attorney can help in this negotiation.  To make the best deal, a person needs to know the best parameters of an agreement and what can and cannot be worked out.  That is the role of your lawyer.

Contrary to what may seem counterintuitive, INNOCENT PEOPLE NEED BETTER LAWYERS THAN GUILTY PEOPLE.  The legal system is not designed for self-service.  The worst injustice can happen to a truly innocent person who does not know how to navigate the legal system.  The legal system has filing deadlines, rules of evidence, rules to secure and subpoena witnesses, and rules on persevering evidence.  Attorneys are also trained to present a persuasive case before a judge or jury.  This training cannot be learned from a book or online.  An attorney learns through his or her career experience.

I would like to think our office offers the best DUI defense in Georgia. However, that is for our clients to decide.  That being said, if you do not hire us, please hire someone.  The legal system is designed by lawyers, for lawyers.  The judge is a lawyer; the prosecutor is a lawyer; you need to hire the best DUI attorney to handle your case.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys

At the Law Office of Richard S. Lawson, we have offices conveniently located throughout metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If we do not have a convenient office, we will come to you. We practice throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. If your case is in an area we do not serve, we will find you an attorney in your area free of charge. Our office is part of a State-wide network of Georgia DUI Lawyers. Contact us 24/7 for immediate legal help. Our attorneys are standing by. Your DUI Case will not defend itself. Your Best Georgia DUI Defense Begins Here!