Is it worth hiring a lawyer for a misdemeanor?
UPDATED: June 19, 2018
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident law decisions. Finding trusted and reliable legal advice should be easy. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
There are a number of reasons hiring an attorney for legal representation may be worth the cost, even if the charge is only a misdemeanor.
Possibility of Doing Time
Any time you are charged with any type of crime, it is a serious matter. In most jurisdictions, crimes are classified as summary offenses, misdemeanors, or felonies. The difference in the classification depends on the maximum period of incarceration you face if you are convicted. In Pennsylvania, for example, depending on the type of misdemeanor you are charged with, you could face a maximum period of incarceration of up to five years if convicted. Unless you relish spending time in a prison cell, hiring a criminal lawyer to represent you in court is a good idea.
The Constitution guarantees that you have a right to counsel to represent you in a criminal case under the Sixth Amendment. Despite this, in some jurisdictions, you may be able to represent yourself, but only if you have the court’s permission to do so. To obtain the court’s permission, you would be required, in a separate proceeding, to make a knowing and intelligent waiver of your right to counsel by demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of the nature of the criminal process. Since, it is doubtful that you, a non-lawyer, could do this, the court could order you to hire counsel, if you do not qualify for a public defender or court appointed attorney, or else be held in contempt of court. Finally, before going to court on your own behalf, you should take to heart the proverb that “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
Any time you are arrested, a criminal record is generated by law enforcement agencies in your area, and the entire process, from start to finish, is recorded. At the end of the criminal process, many jurisdictions permit only non-conviction data to be expunged or erased. In other words, an arrest record can be voided, but not a record of conviction. A permanent criminal record, for any type of crime, felony, summary or misdemeanor offenses, can have a seriously negative impact on your life. It can keep you out of the military, from getting a job or from going to certain universities and colleges. It can also seriously damage your reputation, impact your earnings ability and cause you embarrassment and humiliation. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you avoid having a permanent record.
An experienced criminal defense attorney is the best person to guide you through the traps and pitfalls of the criminal justice system. He or she knows the law, the practices and procedures, and the players, both judges and prosecutors, in your jurisdiction. As your advocate, your lawyer is required by law to work for the best outcome and advise you of all possible consequences that could occur, to the best of his or her ability. This is the kind of person you want on your side when faced with criminal charges, whatever they are, and is definitely worth the cost.