Getting a traffic violation in the state of Virginia comes with hefty penalties. It could be as simple as a fine and points on your license or as severe as jail time. It can be tempting to represent yourself in an attempt to save money. However, this choice can be much more costly in the long run. Consider these seven reasons for why you should not represent yourself in Virginia traffic court.
1. Knowledge of the Law and Process
Traffic laws are numerous and complex. To make things more complicated, the legal process is also a potentially lengthy and complicated one. If you have not studied the law, you will have to quickly learn the law and the court regulations while also trying to represent yourself. This puts enormous pressure on you, adding to the stress you are already feeling.
The consequences can be worse than feeling additional stress. You could miss crucial document filing or other deadlines if you do not fully understand the process. This can bar you from a more favorable outcome. Unfortunately, there is no leeway, and the court or judge will not make exceptions because you did not know.
2. Professional Relationships
Attorneys who have practiced in a particular area of the law for years develop a professional reputation and relationships. Like any other industry, lawyers and other legal professionals network with each other and interact as a part of the regular practice of the law.
Unfortunately, some prosecutors, judges, and jury members have a bias against those who choose to represent themselves. While the court officially prohibits this bias, these people are only human, and it does happen. Some view a defendant representing themselves as reckless, careless, or full of themselves. None of these qualities are positive.
3. Prevent Incriminating Statements
When representing yourself, you can get flustered and accidentally make a self incriminating statement. This can hurt your case and make matters worse for you. The prosecuting attorneys are trained and have plenty of practice in asking the right questions to trip you up. This gets them the answers they want or need to prove their case. Meanwhile, your defense attorney can work with you to prepare you for these tactics. They can help you practice so that you answer the questions truthfully without unintentionally incriminating yourself.
4. Have a Valuable Resource
Hiring an attorney means you have someone advocating on your behalf. They serve as a valuable resource for you to ask questions. Your lawyer knows what is admissible for evidence and can help you formulate an effective defense. These are the Virginia Rules of Evidence. Their experience in front of a particular judge can help you formulate effective arguments. Or their experience with a prosecutor can be an asset during negotiations for a plea bargain.
5. Don’t Let Emotions Cloud Judgement
Understandably, you are feeling upset, mad, and stressed about your situation. These are all normal emotions to experience. However, they can also cloud or skew your judgment. Having legal representation is helpful because you now have an unbiased representative looking out for you.
6. The Court Staff Cannot Assist You
The judge will likely give you an explanation of your legal rights. However, they will not explain the law or provide you with advice. The court staff is busy and do not have time to assist you. They are also legally prohibited from providing you with legal guidance. Additionally, they will not help you formulate a defense, and they will not help you fill out forms. Know that they are not responsible for you and are not there to help you through the court system.
7. Convictions Are Higher Without an Attorney
It is unfortunate, but the chances of you getting convicted are higher when you represent yourself. This means the odds are not in your favor. If you were hiring an attorney, you would look for one with a strong track record of success. So why would you choose to trust yourself with no track record over a lawyer who does this sort of work every day of their career?