If you have been charged with a criminal offense, before you can plead guilty or not guilty to any charge or proceed to trial, you must be informed that you have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney (and meet certain income guidelines established by the Court), an attorney will be appointed to represent you, if you so choose. If you do not meet the eligibility guidelines to have an attorney appointed to represent you, you still have the right to an attorney to represent you on your charges, however the attorney must be retained at your own expense.
You do have the constitutional right to represent yourself and proceed without an attorney; however, you must be informed of the following:
- Self-representation can be dangerous and you have the right to have the assistance of a lawyer at all stages of the proceedings, and if you cannot afford a lawyer, a lawyer can be appointed to represent you.
- Criminal defense is a highly specialized and technical area of the law.
- There may be certain factual, legal, or other defenses to the charge(s) you are facing and if you choose to proceed without the services of a licensed attorney, you may not be aware of certain defenses.
- There may be issues related to the conduct of trial or a guilty plea that could arise in the future that you may not be aware of and it would be your attorney’s responsibility to be aware of those issues and how to properly address them before the Court, and, if necessary, preserve the issues for appellate review.
- There may be collateral consequences of a conviction or plea that you are not aware of, including, but not limited to, you could face increased penalties for subsequent offenses, suspension of your driver’s license, the restriction of the right to possess firearms and/or ammunition, or your immigration status may be affected.
- If you exercise your right to proceed without the services of an attorney, you are responsible for complying with all applicable rules of court, including rules of evidence, procedural rules, and proper behavior before the Judge and/or Jury.
- You understand that if you waive screening for a court-appointed attorney, that you are responsible for hiring a private attorney if you want one.