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.