It is healthy to avoid overreacting to most situations. The American population is widely-understood to be an unusually stressed-out bunch. As a result, those who can respond reasonably to whatever situation is at hand are less likely to experience the social, physical, and mental consequences associated with chronic stress and overreaction.
However, there are hazards associated with underreacting to certain situations as well. For example, if you are experiencing physical symptoms that warrant a trip to the doctor and you underplay your condition for too long, your body could suffer irreparable harm. Similarly, if you’re facing accusations of criminal wrongdoing and you downplay your situation, the consequences of this underreaction could be life-altering in truly negative ways.
All too often, people assume that if they are facing misdemeanor criminal charges, their situation isn’t “really a big deal.” Unfortunately, this assumption isn’t grounded in reality, and failing to take decisive action as a result of this assumption could lead to lasting harm.
Infractions, Misdemeanors, Wobblers, And Felonies
In Michigan, breaking the law can result in charges that fall into one (or more) of the following classifications:
- Infractions – Violations of local regulations or ordinances that do not result in jail time, nor do they result in a criminal record
- Misdemeanors – Crimes that are punishable by no more than two years in a county jail
- Wobblers – Crimes that can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances of an individual’s case
- Felonies – Crimes that are punishable by a term of incarceration to be served in a prison, not a jail
While infractions may potentially be resolved without the assistance of an attorney under certain circumstances, charges that fall into any of the other classifications are serious enough that they must be treated as genuine concerns.
In Michigan, if a crime is not attached to a specific penalty or penalty scheme, it is treated as a misdemeanor. Additionally, if a specific penalty or penalty scheme calls for sentencing terms that do not exceed a term of imprisonment longer than two years in a county jail, the crime in question is treated as a misdemeanor as well.
Misdemeanors are “lesser” crimes than felonies are, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t crimes. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, that conviction will be recorded on your criminal record and will result in penalties that could range from fines to probation, a suspension of your driver’s license to up to 24 months in jail.
The collateral consequences of a misdemeanor conviction are also not to be underestimated. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the crime and the severity of your sentence, you could go to jail, rendering you unable to work or pay your bills. You could also lose your driver’s license and be required to pay steep fees. Your criminal record could make it more difficult for you to secure housing, credit, employment, and even volunteer opportunities in the future. If your crime illustrates truly irresponsible choices on your part, a conviction could affect your child custody rights.
Can I Represent Myself?
Theoretically, you can represent yourself when defending against a misdemeanor criminal charge. The law generally permits defendants to represent their own interests if they are competent enough to understand their situation. Yet, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged in the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright that “lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries.”
Why is it generally a (very) bad idea to represent one’s own interests in criminal court? The system is not designed with self-represented people in mind. Just as hospitals, architecture firms, and banks are operated by professionals, so are courts. Lawyers, clerks, and judges all go to school for years to earn advanced degrees in law before they are permitted to practice. When laypeople try to represent themselves, it is a lot like a layperson walking into a hospital and trying to use the equipment to diagnose and treat themselves without any formal training.
If you try to represent yourself, you will not be accommodated. Judges and administrative staff will expect that you know how to file documents, submit pleadings, address the court, and argue your case effectively. A mistake at any step will likely result in a conviction.
The stakes of a misdemeanor criminal charge are high. They may not be as high as the stakes of a felony case, but they are high. And because prosecutors want to advance their win-loss records, chances are good that any prosecutor assigned to your case will take full advantage of the fact that you’re not trained in legal representation. As a result, the answer to the question, “Can I represent myself?” is “Yes, but you absolutely shouldn’t.”
Contact A Reputable Michigan Misdemeanor Offense Attorney Today For Guidance
Because misdemeanor charges are serious concerns, it is essential to craft the strongest possible defense strategy in response to your circumstances. The elements of that defense strategy will depend entirely on the circumstances of your case, so don’t make any assumptions about what is coming down the road until you’ve spoken with a lawyer about your situation.
At George Law, we have the skill and experience necessary to deliver on behalf of our clients. Although no lawyer can guarantee the outcome of a particular case, our team has a track record that speaks for itself. And even when circumstances do not allow us to insulate our clients from consequences overall, we do our utmost to mitigate the consequences resulting from a less-than-ideal case outcome.
To learn more about our approach to representation – and about your rights and options under the law – schedule a free case evaluation today by calling (248) 247-7459. You can access the chat feature on our website or submit a contact form via our contact page. We look forward to assisting you.