There is an old saying in law: “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” The point of that line is that it is always better for anyone, even a lawyer, to hire legal help when he or she is the target of a criminal investigation, because even the best lawyer’s legal judgment could be clouded by the fact that the case involves a personal stake. So, if the saying holds true for lawyers, what can be said about a person who decides to take on the criminal justice system with no legal education and no experience?
An Arizona man believes he can prove the saying false. Chris Simcox was arrested in 2013 on charges of child molestation involving three girls under the age of 10, at least one of whom is his daughter. A former kindergarten teacher, Simcox is famed for having co-founded the Arizona Chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defence Corps, a group of private citizens who patrol the U.S. southern border looking for immigrants crossing into the country illegally. 1 In 2010, Simcox announced that he was challenging Senator John McCain in the Arizona Republican primary election, but soon dropped out of the race. Later that year, Simcox’s third wife obtained a protective order after Simcox allegedly threatened her and their children with a gun. 2
Unsatisfied with his legal counsel, Simcox fired his attorney, and has decided to represent himself in his upcoming jury trial. If the court finds him competent to do so, he will be allowed to waive his right to counsel and proceed as his own defense attorney.
Why Self-Representation is a Bad Idea
Although the Constitution gives people the right to represent themselves in a court of law (known as “pro se representation”), it is never a good idea in a criminal case. If you do so, you are giving the prosecutor a huge advantage because he or she knows the rules of procedure and evidence, and you most likely do not. You might not be aware that evidence against you was obtained in violation of your rights, and a skilled defense attorney can fight to get that evidence thrown out.
Pro se defendants run the risk of confusing the jury as well. The jury may not be able to tell the difference between when you are testifying as a defendant and when you are acting as your own lawyer. Moreover, even with the judge instructing them not to, there is always the possibility that a jury member will hold it against you that you represented yourself, especially in a child molestation case such as Simcox’s. Regardless of the instruction, jury members are likely to find the crime you are charged with to be repulsive and could form the opinion that nothing you say is true, regardless if you are speaking as a witness or an attorney.
Having a skilled and experienced attorney handle your case reduces the chance that your side of the story will not be believed.
Your Right to Appeal Might Be Waived
Perhaps the most important thing to note about representing yourself in a criminal trial is that you waive your right to a mistrial or to appeal based on mistakes that are made by the court or prosecutor during the process. You are being held to the standard that any attorney would be, which means that if you do not object to an error, you may lose your right to appeal based on the impact of that error.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
While everyone has the right to represent him or herself in a court of law, it is almost never a good idea. You should not face the criminal justice system alone, least of all when the charges are as serious as a sex crime against a child. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending our clients facing these types of charges for over 30 years. We know that facing criminal charges can have a devastating effect on the rest of your life and your career, and we are dedicated to working tirelessly on your behalf to provide you with the best defense possible.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.
1. [Jorge Rivas, “Minutemen Cofounder Arrested for Child Molestation,” ABC News, June 20, 2013, available at http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/anti-immigration-minutemen-cofounder-chris-simcox-arrested-child/story?id=19445695.]↩
2. [Stephen Lemons, “Chris Simcox Allegedly Threatened To Kill Family and Cops, According To Wife’s Order of Protection,” Phoenix New Times, June 2, 2010, available at http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2010/06/jd_hayworth_supporter_chris_si.php.]↩