I was on the misdemeanor plea docket Monday morning, and even after witnessing thousands of pleas, it never ceases to amaze me when criminal Defendants represent themselves, even for misdemeanors. Often I see them agree to offers with the Assistant District Attorney which could easily have been negotiated down, or blind pled to a much better result for the Defendant.
The most common things I see that could be better for Defendants, if they hired an attorney, are: length of probation, fine amount, length of supervision, how much community service and whether drug/alcohol testing will be required. And that is only for those who would end up pleading guilty anyway. Others could potentially have their case dismissed or be found not guilty at a trial. I saw a guy today plead guilty to a lengthy probation, and all kinds of probation requirements, when he could potentially have had his case dismissed. No one told him anything about it being a predicate for a felony (it is in the plea form, but defendants rarely read or understand them), the difficulty of his probation requirements or his likelihood of success at trial.
The prosecutor is not your friend. The judge cannot give you legal advice. I have seen the judge shake his head when asking someone if it is really what they want to do. I get a better offer in the vast majority of my misdemeanor cases than what is the “standard” recommendation. You wouldn’t try to do your own root canal would you? You wouldn’t know what you are doing there, and you don’t know what you are doing by pleading guilty, either. Don’t be silly, get an attorney.
An attorney for a misdemeanor case in Garfield County starts at about $600 and goes up from there. Several, such as myself, have low payment plans available. If you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer, at least you know you aren’t going to make the mistake these guys did and accept offers that would be considered unreasonable to anyone who knows what they are doing.
As for felony cases, if you refuse to get a lawyer, then you aren’t just being silly, you are being just plain idiotic.