Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court?

Yes, you can represent yourself in a criminal court, although it is recommended that you use a lawyer with experience in criminal law. This will reduce your personal stress and increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Self-represented litigants

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, it is likely that your case will end up in court. There are three different levels of court in British Columbia –

  1. The Provincial Court of B.C. – which is where you case will likely be heard if you have been charged with a summary offence
  2. The B.C. Supreme Court – which is where you case will be heard if you have been charged with an indictable offence
  3. The B.C. Court of Appeal – which hears appeals

Whatever court you must attend, you may be wondering whether or not you have to have a lawyer. The answer is no, there is no obligation to use a lawyer if you do not want to. If you wish to represent yourself, you are known as a ‘self-represented litigant’.

As a self-represented litigant, you must do everything that a criminal lawyer would ordinarily do. This includes making submissions to the court, explaining the evidence, questioning any witnesses, answering questions and, if applicable, striking a deal. You will also need to know what happens in court, the correct language to use and how to apply the law correctly.

Furthermore, you should be aware that more than one court appearance is often necessary. Before you even get to court, there will likely be complex procedures to follow and negotiations to enter into.

Why you should use a criminal lawyer

Being a self-represented litigant is not easy. To succeed, you need to teach yourself all of the laws that apply to your case and work out the correct legal arguments to use. Then you need to devise the right strategy to use, both inside the courtroom and out, before successfully executing this strategy.

Unless you have experience as a criminal lawyer, this is going to be extremely stressful, not to mention extremely time consuming. Remember, there is a reason lawyers train for many years to get their qualifications – because the law is complicated! Standing up in front of a courtroom is also very nerve-racking, and the procedures and language can be very alien to those who have never been in court before.

For these reasons, self-represented litigants do not always achieve the best possible outcome. Often, they will annoy judges by submitting the wrong information or neglecting to follow protocol. They may not pursue the right defence or may fail to provide sufficient evidence to support their case. Or they may let their emotions get the better of them.

That is why if possible, you should use a criminal lawyer. Having a professional representative will remove the burden from your shoulders. Not only will this make everything significantly less stressful, it will increase the chances of a ‘not guilty’ verdict, or a more lenient sentence – which will no doubt be your primary aim.

Contact us now

Whatever criminal charges you are facing, let our criminal lawyers help you. Do not try to go it alone. To speak to a criminal lawyer in Vancouver, please do not hesitate to contact us now at North Shore Law LLP.

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