Yes, you can represent yourself in Court. But would you want me to come to your job and try and do it for a day? People in Northern Virginia are highly educated and are capable of doing legal research themselves and presenting cogent arguments to a Judge without an attorney. However, reading the Virginia Code and speaking well is not all that is needed. That is why you are always better off hiring an experienced attorney. I often tell my clients: “I am no smarter than you. I am just trained in a different area than you. Think about what would happen if I went to your job and tried to do it. Disaster! I have never done your job before, nor have I the experience of knowing what could go wrong at your job and how to do it right. So why would you think that just because you are highly intelligent, that you could go and do just as good of a job in Court as an experienced lawyer?”
I have been in our local courts for 29 years. http://www.albo-oblon.com/attorneys/david-b-albo/ I have ‘seen it all’ and therefore, I can predict problems and know how to get positive outcomes better than a person who is not an attorney and has never been in Court. I recently heard from a person charged with Trespassing. http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter5/section18.2-119/ He went to Court on his own and could not understand why he lost. He said, “There was no ‘No Trespassing’ sign, nor was there a ‘Closed After Dark’ sign!” Had he an experienced attorney representing him, the results could have been the same. But, here are some things that he did not know:
- In many Courts, including Fairfax County, a private citizen cannot talk to the Prosecutor. Had he an attorney representing him, that attorney could have talked to the Prosecutor, showed him the pictures and tried to get the charge dismissed or dropped down to a lesser charge.
- Trespassing is one of the very few Misdemeanors where the Virginia Code allows a Judge to continue the case for 6 months to one year, and then dismiss the charge. Usually the Judge will require some community service. This is a 100% way to get a charge dismissed.
- If it is an actually trial you want, then practically speaking, you will need an independent witness. If it is the Defendant’s word about a sign not being there and a Police Officer’s word, then you need to bring an independent witness. Most often, Judges will side with the Police unless there is an independent witness.
- If you lose in General District Court, you have the automatic right to appeal, but you have to file it within 10 days. And on appeal, you can ask for a Jury or a Judge trial.