This morning I was in Criminal Court in Durham, North Carolina and observed something that I have seen many times and decided to write an blog about it. I heard a criminal defendant, represented by a Criminal Defense Attorney speak directly to the Judge when he was addressing counsel. And before that, I observed a young law student who was in court on a misdemeanor larceny first-time offenders program try and talk his way out of having his status in the program revoked and face the original larceny charge. As a Raleigh Criminal Lawyer, Raleigh Traffic Attorney and a Raleigh DWI Attorney practicing in Durham, North Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina, and formerly an Assistant District Attorney in Harnett County, North Carolina I have seen many Defendants speak up when they shouldn’t have. Below, this article will stress why it is important to limit what you say and/or hire an attorney to speak for you.
The first incident that I saw today, where the Defendant spoke directly to the Judge was met immediately by an admonishment by the Judge. The Judge explained that she was represented by a quality Durham Criminal Attorney from the Public Defender’s Office and should let her attorney do all the speaking for her. Afterwards, I observed the Public Defender express the same to the Defendant. She explained to the Defendant to not speak in court unless directly spoken to. I know this may sound belittling, and somewhat parent/childish, but it’s true. Attorneys go through three years of law school, incur HUGE amounts of student loans, and ultimately face the bar exam to learn the law and learn how to be a lawyer. One of the many skill sets that attorneys learn is what should be said in court and what should not. If you have an attorney representing you in court, whether it’s a Criminal Case, DWI Case, or a Traffic Case, let the Attorney do all the speaking for you, unless the agree that it is okay for you to speak up or you are called to testify.
This brings me to my second point. If you are facing a Criminal Charge, DWI Charge, or a Traffic Charge you should always try and find a way to have an attorney at your side to represent you. Whether you request the court to appoint you an attorney, you ask an attorney who is your friend to help, or you hire a private criminal attorney, you need their expertise in making it through the case. Now, I’m not saying that there have not been successful Pro Se Defendants (that is the term used for Defendants who represent themselves). There have been successful cases, as an Assistant District Attorney, I observed a Defendant get a not guilty verdict in an assault case brought by the Defendant’s Dad. But, if you are playing the percentages, you have a MUCH greater chance of being successful, and not making a mistake, if you have an attorney at your side. The young man today who was representing himself was saved when a local attorney stepped in and assisted him, for free. See, not all attorneys are blood-suckers!