If you feel financially pinched during a time of legal trouble, you might feel tempted to eschew legal representation if you end up in a California court in order to save money. However, representing yourself in a criminal or even civil proceeding can be very perilous. You might not even realize that something as simple as jury selection can make or break your case.
The men and women who will serve on a jury in a criminal case will hear the arguments and evidence presented and render a verdict as to your innocence or guilt. However, professional defense attorneys are heavily involved in jury selections. If there is a juror that is biased against you before the trial begins, your prospects for acquittal will diminish. Without legal counsel to represent you, you could run into any of the following problems.
As FindLaw points out, if you are representing yourself, you would have the responsibility of questioning prospective jurors during the selection process. Professional attorneys know how to question a juror to find out if that person would be biased against their client. Some attorneys, for instance, might not want someone who once served in law enforcement to sit on a jury deciding a case of police misconduct. Without knowing what to look for, you might let a prejudiced juror or two slip through the screening.
Avoiding a Jury Trial
Perhaps you would prefer to have your case heard before a judge. It might seem like you can avoid a jury trial by requesting that you present your case before a judge. However, you are not the only party who can request a jury trial. Even if you prefer a judge to hear your case, the other side may ask for a jury trial, and the judge could decide in favor of using a jury against your wishes.
Defense attorneys will ask for the dismissal of juror candidates they believe could harm the case of their clients. Per FindLaw, attorneys may use a challenge for a cause, or a peremptory challenge, which is a challenge that requires no stated cause. However, peremptory challenges are limited in scope. Professional attorneys will know how many challenges they can use and to what purpose.
The importance of selecting an impartial jury to hear your case is just one of many hurdles that must be crossed in a criminal or civil trial. The expertise of a professional defense attorney can help a person avoid many pitfalls that individuals not experienced in legal matters could fall into.