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Four Reasons Why It Is A Bad Idea To Represent Yourself In A Criminal Case

People have the right to represent themselves in a court of law under the Sixth Amendment, but this may not be a good idea.

The American justice system was designed with the intent that a person must be proven guilty in a court of law, rather than by public opinion. Under the guidance of the Sixth Amendment, Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute points out that people do have the right to act as their own legal counsel or they can hire a qualified attorney. For people in Iowa, it can be tempting to just handle their own defense but that can be a bad idea.

1. The system is a complicated one

Aside from the trial itself or the negotiations for a plea bargain, navigating the court system is complicated. Iowa courts are strict about when certain documents need to be filed and if people miss the deadline, it could jeopardize the outcome of their case. For example, they only have so many days to submit pretrial motions for the purpose of suppressing evidence or submitting evidence in their defense.

An attorney understands these rules and has a supporting staff to make sure that all necessary filings are made to the court in a timely manner. An attorney can also help people understand what to expect in the criminal process.

2. Lack of experience/knowledge

If people need a surgical procedure done, they understand the importance of finding a qualified surgeon with experience in performing this type of operation. The same is true for people who are facing a criminal charge. The American Bar Association points out that attorneys spend years gathering knowledge about the criminal system. They know the rules that apply to these cases, including when formal charges must be filed, how evidence is to be collected and what type of evidence to look for.

Each year, attorneys also attend continuing legal education courses to learn new tactics and changes occurring in their practice area. This may concern how to deal with DNA evidence, negotiating for a reduction of charges or the problems with eyewitness testimony.

3. The courts cannot provide legal advice

The Iowa State Bar states that court staff and judges are prohibited from providing people any advice referring to their case. Clearly, this would violate the role of the judge, which is to act as a neutral third party that listens to both sides and then makes a ruling after reviewing the arguments and the evidence provided.

4. Emotional-based decisions

It is important for people to understand that the criminal court system is one that is based on logic and reasoning. To be able to represent themselves, they need to look at the case with an objective eye, examining the strength of the evidence against them and analyzing the best strategy to follow. However, most people are too emotionally connected since they are the ones on trial.

An attorney has the skills to help people see the long-term picture and choose options that will give them the best possible solution to their situation. When people in Iowa find themselves the target of a criminal investigation, they may find it helpful to meet with an attorney.

  • The Iowa State Bar Association
  • DUI Defense Law
  • NACDL
  • AAJ
  • Iowa Association of Justice

Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger 

Put Over 50 Years of Combined Trial Experience On Your Side 
  • J. Dean Keegan
  • Eric D. Tindal
  • Andrea D. Jaeger
  • J. Dean Keegan J. Dean Keegan

    Owner

    Decades of Award-Winning Legal Service J. Dean Keegan was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa. After high school, Dean served ...
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  • Eric D. Tindal Eric D. Tindal

    Attorney

    Highly Rated Criminal Defense in Iowa City Eric D. Tindal, attorney at Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger, graduated from the University ...
    Eric D. Tindal Photo
  • Andrea D. Jaeger Andrea D. Jaeger

    Attorney

    Experienced Criminal Defense in the Iowa and Illinois Quad Cities Andrea D. Jaeger practices in the areas of white collar ...
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  • I am glad he was there to get my head out of the guillotine when I needed him and keep my record clean.

    “I was stopped for an OWI. Dean took things as far as he could with the appeals process, finding every way possible to keep me driving in the meantime (which I needed to do for my job). Dean argued the ...”

    - Ryan
  • My family and friends appreciate all you have done. Thank you.

    “Thank you, Andrea and Eric. You both did a great job and got me the best results possible in my situation. I would recommend your service to any in need of counsel and I am still amazed in the way ...”

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  • Andrea Jaeger is the best defense attorney in the world.

    “Andrea Jaeger is the best defense attorney in the world. She gets the job done for her clients. She goes hard for the best results. She would always be my first choice of defense. She is very ...”

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  • Eric helped give me my life back

    “I was charged with two felonies that carried a life sentence. After sitting in jail for a year with public defenders just going through the motions, I asked the judge to appoint new counsel. Eric was ...”

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Protecting Your Freedom & Rights
  • First Degree Murder and Child Endangerment Causing Death Acquitted of First Degree Murder at Trial

    Henry County FECR005634. Attorney Tindal’s client was charged with First Degree Murder and Child Endangerment Causing Death. Following a two week trial, the Defendant was acquitted of all charges.

  • Vehicular Homicide Charges Reduced, No Incarceration Imposed

    Muscatine County FECR056673. Vehicular Homicide was reduced to Involuntary Manslaughter. Total sentence was suspended.

  • Felony Drug Charges Charges Dismissed

    Muscatine County FECR050038. Attorney Dean Keegan's client was charged with two counts of controlled substance violation, as well as two counts of failure to affix tax stamp. After a year of court appearances and negotiating with the prosecutor, all charges were dismissed with costs assessed to the State.

  • Carrying Weapons, Public Intoxication, & Disorderly Conduct Carrying Weapons & Public Intoxication Charges D

    Linn County AGCR108044. Attorney Dean Keegan's client was charged with Carrying Weapons, Public Intoxication, and Disorderly Conduct. After plea negotiations with the State, Mr. Keegan was successful in dismissing the Carrying Weapons and Public Intoxication charges.

  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Charges Dismissed

    Iowa County FECR010358. Attorney Tindal was able to show the Court that his client was detained in violation of his Constitutional rights and that the K9 utilized in the search was unreliable. Following hearing all charges were dismissed.

  • Embezzlement No Criminal Charges Filed

    Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Iowa. An employee of a Cedar Rapids business accused of embezzling six million dollars was not charged criminally after the County Attorney agreed to abide by an agreement negotiated by Attorneys J. Dean Keegan and Jerald Kinnamon in which the accused would pay two million dollars to the company.

  • Second Degree Sexual Abuse and Other Charges Acquittal at Trial

    Johnson County FECR089277. The Defendant was charged with Second Degree Sexual Abuse and other charges. Following a one-week trial by Mr. Tindal, the Defendant was acquitted of all charges.

  • Trafficking Stolen Weapons and Misdemeanor Theft Charge Dismissed

    Scott County FECR384046. The Defendant was charged with Trafficking Stolen Weapons and Misdemeanor Theft. The Court dismissed the felony following a Motion litigated by Mr. Tindal. The Defendant subsequently pled to the remaining misdemeanor.

  • Possession with Intent to Deliver Marijuana and Methamphetamine Charges Dismissed

    Washington Count FECR5351. Attorney Tindal and Attorney Clemens Erdahl successfully argued that evidence of drug manufacture was obtained in violation of the Constitution. All charges were dismissed.

  • Operating While Intoxicated 3rd Offense Charge Dismissed

    Linn County OWCR104143. Attorney Dean Keegan's client was charged with a felony 3rd offense OWI. Mr. Keegan argued the officer did not have reasonable grounds to pull over his client. The charges were dropped from a felony to a ticket fine of $15.00 for being in a park past closing time.

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