If you’ve been in a legal scrape and you’ve probably asked yourself this question. After all, lawyers cost money and if you can do it yourself, why wouldn’t you?
Here are some examples of when you should contact your lawyer.
When You Are Not Sure What Action to Take
Perhaps you’ve been charged with a crime that you don’t entirely understand. Maybe law enforcement are insisting that you give some kind of statement, or offer some additional information. Perhaps you feel that your rights have been impinged in some way.
Your lawyer’s job is to clear up legal misunderstandings and offer you some clarity. They will explain the next steps, give you options and tell you what to say and – perhaps more importantly – what not to say.
When You Don’t Trust the Situation
The most common example of this is when you are told, “you don’t have to get a lawyer involved just yet.” Statements like this are carefully worded; of course you don’t have to get a lawyer involved, it’s entirely up to you. But not having legal counsel present gives law enforcement time to talk to you, and get you to say things that could potentially incriminate you or enhance the case against you. Other warning statements include, “of course you can call your lawyer, let’s do that shortly,” and other delaying tactics. Don’t say anything, contact your legal counsel and wait for them to arrive. Remember, you are entitled to have a lawyer present, and asking for one is not in any way an admission of guilt.
When You Need Support
Being arrested, or asked questions by police can be an intimidating experience. Maybe you are worried about what you are going to say, or perhaps you don’t know what to expect. Your lawyer can act as a support person for you, someone who understands the the process and can walk you through it. Sometimes it’s nice having someone in the room with your best interests at heart.
When You are Going to Court
Self-representation is almost always a mistake. Even if you are incredibly articulate, with a good basic knowledge of the law, the advantage always lies with the side who has a professional as their representative.
Litigators salivate at the prospect of not having to deal with an experienced opposition council, because the complexities of the law – rather than just the merits of the case – can be used as a tool. Many good cases have been lost because defendants chose to represent themselves, assuming that their argument required no interpretation or legal precedent. Something that is regarded as ‘common sense’ by a defendant, may not be by a judge or jury.
When deciding whether you need a lawyer or not, consider both sides of the argument. Not only how much money you will save by not having legal counsel, but also how much money or time you may lose through not making the call. For the sake of a few dollars, it sometimes better to have someone by your side, rather than end up in jail or with a crippling fine.