Factors to Take Into Account in Self-Representation
Everybody can weigh up the pros and cons of self-representation. Are you likely to go to jail? Is this a first and minor offence? What will be the impact of this on your life? Factors that need to be taken into account when deciding whether to self-represent include:
- The charge: is it a minor offence or a major offence?
- Consequences – such as imprisonment, fines, disqualification from driving
- Your circumstances – your type of employment
- Your needs – will a guilty verdict impact on your life in a negative way?
If you are charged with the offence of ‘causing death by negligent driving’ it is reasonable to consider that a term of imprisonment could well be imposed even if you have an unblemished record and that the engagement of a lawyer is necessary and you should engage a lawyer. First offences are not always minor offences.
If, on the other hand, you are a tradesperson or a public servant in full time employment and you are charged with exceeding the blood alcohol limit of 0.05, namely 0.07 and have an otherwise long unblemished record you may not choose legal representation. If you are a public servant you may choose to be self-represented as 3 months disqualification from driving and $260 fine (or thereabouts) may not significantly affect you. If you are a tradesperson you may choose a lawyer to represent you because of your reliance on your license for work, and it is important to minimise the period of disqualification and obtain a Restricted Licence for that reason. Although obtaining legal representation does not guarantee that you will receive the minimum period of disqualification and/or a Restricted Licence, the expense of engaging a lawyer may be seen as justified expense.
The following sections explain the process in the event that you choose to represent yourself in the magistrates’ court.