3 reasons representing yourself in a Virginia DUI is a bad idea

Representing yourself in a Virginia court may be tempting, but it can also be a risk when there is so much at stake.

In 1975, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling regarding a defendant's right to self-representation. The court determined that people charged with a crime in Virginia or across the country are able to represent themselves as long as a judge has determined that they are competent.

However, self-representation is generally regarded as worrisome. Many people may try to handle simpler criminal charges, such as a DUI, on their own. This can be problematic for a number of reasons, such as the following:

1. DUI cases have serious penalties

Virginia law outlines a number of consequences for those convicted of driving while drunk. Even a misdemeanor can result in up to 10 days in jail. First, second and subsequent charges can also carry the following consequences:

  • Fines
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Years in prison
  • Seizure and forfeiture of a vehicle
  • Mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices

There is a substantial amount of freedom at stake with any DUI case, which is why people may want to rethink representing themselves in court.

2. Criminal proceedings can be complex

Not all DUI cases are cut and dry; there are often subtle details that can play a crucial role in establishing whether or not the defendant is guilty. Someone who is unfamiliar with the law may overlook these details. For example, a defendant may not know to obtain a copy of the police report, gather evidence and cite applicable case law.

It can also be difficult for someone other than legal professionals to understand the terminology used in court. In many cases, there is a significant amount of jargon or acronyms that can be confusing.

3. Knowing what is and is not admissible

Any criminal case will have rules regarding what evidence is admissible and what is not. The Virginia Rules of Evidence addresses complicated issues, such as hearsay, which may or may not be used as evidence in court.

What to look for in a DUI attorney

After ruling out self-representation, it is imperative that people facing DUI charges know how to find a reputable lawyer. Defendants should look for someone who has a reputation of successfully helping clients secure favorable verdicts. An attorney who specializes in criminal defense is also key, because he or she will be familiar with all aspects of criminal proceedings.

A good attorney will keep the lines of communication open so the defendant is always aware of how his or her case is progressing. Lastly, the attorney should be upfront and honest about how any charges or fees will apply.

Anyone who has questions about this issue should consult with a DUI attorney in Virginia.