The legal system is not designed for self-service

Posted by Richard Lawson | Oct 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

Navigating Georgia's Legal System After a DUI Arrest:

Many people do not realize the complexity of their legal problems until it is too late. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can handle your case on your own. Many times when a person does not hire an attorney they end up making matters worse.  Below are a few, of the many, reasons why you should never attend court without an attorney. 

Court Appearances and Their Implications: 

1. Arraignment: 

Arraignment is typically your first appearance after an arrest. In some courts, your arraignment may only be a few days post-arrest. For example, if you are arrested in the City of Atlanta on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, your first court appearance will be Monday morning at 8:00 AM. Attending arraignment without an attorney can be detrimental to your case.  You will be asked whether you would like to plead guilty of not guilty. If you plead guilty, you are bringing your case to an end and admitting guilt. If you decide in the future to change your mind, it is extremely difficult and next to impossible for an attorney to withdraw your plea and assist you in the matter.

If you plead not guilty at arraignment, one of two things will happen. First, if your case is pending in a municipal court, pleading not guilty will bind your case over to the state or superior court in your county. This means your case will be transferred from one court to another. This can have drastic effects on your case.  We always try to resolve a case before making a decision to go to trial.  

Secondly, if your case is already pending in State or Superior Court, pleading not guilty at an arraignment will affect your ability to use defenses on your behalf down the road.  All motions must be filed at or before arraignments.  Filing the correct legal challenges to your case will form the basis for your defense.  When you miss the deadline to file motions, you will be waiving those legal challenges.  

2. Motions Hearing:

Even if an unrepresented person manages to file appropriate motions (some people copy pleadings from other cases at the clerk's office), they will not know how to argue those motions.  As stated above, motions are the most important part of a Georgia DUI Defense.  When a judge rules on a motion, the matter is finalized.  It is virtually impossible to go back and get a judge to rehear an issue.

3. Calendar Call:

At calendar call, a criminal defendant must inform the court whether they are ready for trial.  In addition, many judges will not allow a negotiated plea bargain after calendar call.  That means the accused must make the most important decision of whether to settle their case or take it to trial.  This decision cannot be made well without the help of a qualified Georgia DUI Attorney.  Furthermore, unrepresented defendants are far less likely to get a continuance for unavailability of witnesses and other issues beyond their control.  Attorneys have relationships with the prosecutors and judges in the courts in which they serve.  Those relationships help protect the rights of the accused.  For the unrepresented, once calendar call is scheduled, the trial of the case is imminent.  

4. Negotiations or Trial:

An unrepresented criminal defendant can never successfully defend their rights at trial.  The best Georgia DUI Trial Attorneys spend years honing their skills in court.  When a person acts as his or her attorney, they are held to the same standards as if they had counsel.  A pro se defendant does not have the knowledge and training to navigate through the rules of evidence and techniques of conducting a trial.

Prosecutors are trained in trial techniques and cross-examinations. Proceeding with a trial without an attorney is always ill-advised.  Many people assume an adverse outcome can be appealed to a higher court.  However, when an appeal is filed, the higher court only looks at whether the correct procedures were followed in the trial of the case.  An appellate court will not rehear the facts of the case or listen to new evidence.  Appeals are usually unsuccessful, and they are even less successful when a judgment is appealed from a pro se defendant.  Unrepresented parties are far less likely to preserve issues for appeal properly.

Practicing law is not pumping gas:

There is no amount of time in a law library, at the courthouse, or on the internet that can substitute for sounds legal representation. Attorneys have specialized legal training and hold doctorate degrees in the law.  People who appear in court without a lawyer very often find themselves in a far worse situation than what would have happened with a qualified attorney.  Many times a lawyer cannot go back and correct the mistakes made by those practicing law on themselves.  Abraham Lincoln once said that "[a] lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."  I wonder what "Honest Abe" would have said about a non-lawyer.   

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!