Self-representation is a basic legal right of every criminal defendant. The art of self-representation is often glorified in crime dramas on TV, but in reality, it can have serious consequences. Representing yourself at your arraignment hearing instead of hiring a criminal defense lawyer may affect your ability to obtain affordable bail bonds . Even if you do manage to post bail in an Upper Marlboro-area jail, you may inadvertently make legal mistakes that may compromise your case.
The purpose of the arraignment hearing is not to determine whether you’re guilty or not guilty. It’s only an initial hearing during which the judge will formally read the charges against you and ask you to enter a plea. If you haven’t yet retained legal counsel, you will be offered the opportunity to request court-appointed counsel. The judge will also decide whether or not to set bail. If bail is set, then the specific amount will be determined. Normally, arraignment must take place within 48 hours of the arrest. However, in certain cases for minor offenses, defendants may be able to post bail beforehand and then return to the court to be officially arraigned at a later date.
Most defendants lack in-depth knowledge of federal and state criminal codes, legal proceedings and protocols, and criminal justice rules. It’s quite easy for a defendant to make multiple errors when representing him- or herself, even during a simple arraignment hearing. To a judge, self-representation is not an acceptable excuse for ignorance of the law or of court rules. Not being able to represent yourself properly can lead the judge to set a higher bail or perhaps even to deny bail. In addition to compromising your ability to obtain bail bonds, representing yourself may prevent technical defects from entering the record. For example, the police officers may have made procedural errors that could have been entered into the record prior to your plea.
If you are taken straight from the jail to the courtroom for the arraignment, then you will not have had a chance to review your case. You won’t have the opportunity to read the relevant documents, talk to the prosecutors, or otherwise develop strategies for your defense.