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The Challenges of Facing Misdemeanor Charges Without Legal Representation

February 27, 2023

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Article 6 of the Constitution guarantees the right to counsel to all those charged with a crime. This includes the right to a speedy and public trial, an impartial jury, and to be informed of the charges and evidence against them. Specifically, the Constitution states that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense." However, the right to the assistance of counsel only applies if you are charged with a crime that carries a potential jail sentence. In such cases, you have the constitutional right to a lawyer to assist you in your defense. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the government must provide you with one at public expense.

A person accused of a crime in court without representation
According to the director of the Sixth Amendment Center, thousands of individuals receive jail sentences without legal representation. County court judges in Miami, Florida are acutely aware that anyone facing incarceration is entitled to legal representation from a criminal defense lawyer. If the individual cannot afford a private attorney, the court will appoint the Miami-Dade County Public Defender's Office to represent the individual. In court, usually at the arraignment, the judge will conduct an inquiry addressed to the assistant state attorney in the courtroom as to his/her intention of seeking jail time. If the State is not seeking jail, the assistant state attorney will certify "no jail". At this point, the defendant will not have the right to a Public Defender's representation in the case. If the prosecution is not seeking jail time, defendants do not have the right to a public defender and must either represent themselves or hire a private attorney at their own expense.

Although incarceration is off the table, defendants who decide to represent themselves are at a disadvantage and face potentially serious collateral consequences despite avoiding jail. Defendants without the assistance of counsel have to deal with prosecutors directly on their own behalf. All prosecutors have graduated from law school and passed the bar exam. These defendants are at a significant disadvantage through no fault of their own. They lack the experience and knowledge needed to defend against criminal charges. Unrepresented defendants are unaware of the law and cannot possibly know and understand the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. State prosecutors can often discern the difference between a good case and a bad case, but you better believe that they are not going to share that information with you. On many occasions, it takes the experience of a seasoned criminal defense lawyer evaluating a case, then highlighting these certain issues to the State. Having these advantages can often result in the dismissal of charges.

Person worried about consequences of a misdemeanor
While unrepresented defendants do not face time in the Dade County jail, other pitfalls can result from accepting pleas in cases while being unrepresented. Pleas to many misdemeanor charges can lead to serious immigration consequences such as deportation. Pleas to misdemeanors can also affect a person's job or negatively affect job opportunities in the future. A misdemeanor record can also influence a person's ability to lease an apartment or obtain certain government benefits. Anyone charged with a misdemeanor with the economic means to hire an attorney should do just that to prevent any unforeseen and unfortunate consequences in the future. If you have been arrested on misdemeanor charges, seek guidance and advice from an experienced Miami criminal attorney.

Protect your rights and your future regardless of whether or not you are facing jail time. No matter what sentence you're facing, you deserve to have the best Miami criminal defense lawyers on your side. If you have been accused of a misdemeanor, our lawyers can help you understand the situation and provide an effective, relentless defense strategy. So, don't hesitate to call (305) 444-0030 and our lawyers will answer all your questions. Our lawyers are always ready to meet your needs.
Categories: Misdemeanors
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