After some internet research or a bad experience with a public defender, you may feel like you can represent yourself in a DUI hearing instead of hiring an experienced DUI lawyer. In most cases, you have the right to represent yourself in court. You can present evidence, file motions, and even argue your case to the jury. However, before you decide to represent yourself in a criminal court case, make sure you understand what it means.
If you have questions about criminal charges after an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol in California, talk to an East Bay DUI lawyer for legal advice.
Pro Se Representation
Defendants who represent themselves in court, without a licensed attorney, are considered pro se defendants. Individuals facing criminal charges may represent themselves for a number of reasons, including:
- My case seems simple enough;
- The judge is going to make the same decision with or without a lawyer;
- I can have a lawyer or paralegal friend help me out; or
- A lawyer will be too expensive.
In a report by the Judicial Council of California, the courts have identified both opportunities and challenges with pro se defendants. According to the report, judges like handling some cases with pro se defendants because they get to the heart of the matter quickly. However, pro se defendants have challenges preparing pleadings, meeting procedural requirements, and clearly articulating their cases to the judge.
Who is the Judge in Your Case?
Presenting legal cases before judges can be complicated. Each judge may have their own pluses and minuses and it can be a great benefit for lawyers and defendants to understand the judge's reputation. Some judges are more open to DUI diversion or probation. Other judges may be known for imposing harsh sentences. It can be very helpful for defendants to know about their judge's reputation before their first appearance.
Time Limits and Statutes
There are specific time limits and statutes of limitations in court cases that are hard and fast rules. If you file a motion a day late or wait too long to request a DMV hearing, it may be too late. For example, you only have 10 days after your arrest to request a hearing with the California DMV or your license will be administratively suspended. The temporary permit the police gave you is only good for 30 days but you only have 10 to make a formal hearing request.
Make sure you understand the legal deadlines and DMV administrative hearing time limits and don't wait until the last minute. Your DUI defense lawyer can let you know how long you have to file a hearing, appeal your case, or file a motion to suppress evidence.
The Laws and Science of DUI Cases is Always Changing
Legal statutes may seem set in stone. However, the law is always changing. California drunk driving laws and advisories change all the time. New cases may have changed the legal holdings in a way that could help you in your case. The science of alcohol impairment and testing is also continually evolving. New information about testing blood or breath samples for alcohol may help demonstrate the police test results are inaccurate or not as reliable as the police make them seem.
The benefit of a DUI defense lawyer who practices primarily in drunk driving cases is that they can stay up-to-date on the latest in California DUI laws and scientific updates.
California county courts have resources for pro se litigants. However, the courts also let people know that there are restrictions and requirements to follow and just because you represent yourself does not mean the judge will be more forgiving. According to the Alameda County Superior Court:
“If you represent yourself in Court, you are expected to understand the law, rules and procedures that apply to your case. You will need to follow those in presenting your case to the court and getting your matter resolved, whether by settling with the other party, using an appropriate administrative process or going to trial.”
Each court jurisdiction has its own local rules and forms that you should be familiar with before your first hearing.
- Local Rules and Forms for Alameda County Superior Court
- Local Rules of Court for Contra Costa County Superior Court
Experienced DUI Defense in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties
Before you decide to represent yourself, it is important to understand your constitutional rights. Under the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to be represented by an attorney in a criminal case. If you are arrested for a DUI anywhere in Alameda or Contra Costa counties, Lynn Gorelick understands the possible penalties you may be facing. She knows the local DUI laws, prosecutors, judges, and officers involved. With over 37 years of DUI experience, Lynn Gorelick understands the law and has the skills required to fight DUI charges.