The North Carolina criminal justice system can be brutal when it comes to the crime of Driving While Impaired (DWI), which includes both drunk driving and drugged driving. This is especially true if you come to court with the burden of an existing criminal record from previous DWI convictions or other offenses. Your best hope is to rely on an impassioned, aggressive Wilmington criminal defense attorney to get you the best available outcome for your case.

But people can be—well, “ornery” is the term my grandmother liked to use. Stubborn. Determined to take on the world, on their own terms.

All too often, then, we see criminal defendants who fight their DWI charges on their own, or with minimal help from a public defender. Sometimes they don’t think they can afford to hire a private North Carolina defense attorney. Other times, they are so determined to be independent that they have trouble accepting legal advice. The trouble is, virtually all criminal defendants are completely out of their depth in dealing with legal jargon and courtroom rules.

Attorneys have a name for criminal defendants who try to defend their cases without a lawyer. We call them “convicts.”

Why you shouldn’t try to defend yourself against North Carolina DWI charges

The law allows you to defend yourself in court. It’s called representation pro se, a Latin phrase meaning “on one’s own behalf.” You can find a number of websites online that will tell you how tackling your own defense makes you a better citizen, a pillar of the community, and a tribute to the American ideal of independent thinking.

That’s hooey. Most of these websites are trying to sell you course materials on how you can learn to fake your way through court. Trust us, you can’t get a good enough legal education that way.

On the other hand, maybe you think our appeal that you get a lawyer is also self-serving. Well, we certainly think you should consider hiring the Speaks Law Firm for your DWI case, if you will be prosecuted in New Hanover County or the nearby area. But even if you don’t hire us, you should hire some experienced criminal defense attorney instead of trying to handle your case pro se.

Here’s why you are at a significant—even crippling—disadvantage when representing yourself:

  • You are unfamiliar with courtroom procedure and decorum.
  • You have no experience negotiating with prosecutors to get the charges reduced.
  • You do not know legal terms and jargon.
  • You are unfamiliar with statute law and the huge body of precedent law, so you do not know what arguments to make in your defense.
  • You don’t know constitutional law—and that’s critical for challenging how you were arrested and challenging the evidence against you.
  • If you are in jail before your trial, you may not have the fundamental liberties to educate yourself about the law to prepare an adequate defense.

Please, for your own best interest: Get a Defense Lawyer

It’s perfectly okay to represent yourself in small claims court, where the stakes—a few hundred dollars at most—are relatively low.

Criminal charges, even for drunk driving, are completely different. You’re playing dice with your future if you try to defend yourself. If you insist on a pro se defense, the judge will even warn you that you’re taking serious risks. Remember: if you lose your case, you cannot use your inexperience as a justification for an appeal.

Having an attorney is a fundamental right when you are facing criminal charges. If you can’t afford one, the court will provide a lawyer for you at no expense.

If you can afford a private attorney, consider hiring Speaks Law Firm. You can call us at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233. Give us a chance to hear about your case and tell you how we can provide representation that is fundamentally sound and more likely to succeed than a pro se defense.

Don’t end up losing your freedom by trying to show the courtroom how independent you are.

R. Clarke Speaks
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Trial Lawyer and Founder of Speaks Law Firm, P.C.
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