You have three choices of representation if you are facing criminal charges in Tennessee. First, you can represent yourself. You will be facing a prosecutor who knows Tennessee criminal law, procedure and the rules of evidence. The prosecutor will also have experience before with the judge. Second, you can ask for the court to appoint a criminal defense attorney to represent you. It could be a private lawyer who accepts appointments from the court or a public defender. You will have no choice in who represents you and no knowledge of their skill level or experience. You will also have to meet income guidelines. Third, you can select and hire a criminal defense attorney based on what you want in a lawyer and what is important to you, such as experience, trial practice, and knowledge of criminal law. Maybe a divorce lawyer that dabbles in defending those accused of a crime is who you want.
Here is a little story about a case where someone represented themselves. It was a simple criminal charge, no big deal. The defendant pleaded as charged, and it was continued for application for judicial diversion (judicial diversion will be tomorrow's blog post). Surprise, the defendant was not eligible for diversion and the conviction now became permanent. Uh oh, then there were employment problems. Here is what we did. We filed a motion to set aside the guilty plea because no waiver of attorney was signed - one of those loopholes lawyers love. The plea of guilty was set aside, and the case was retired. There was no conviction, and the case will be soon be expunged. Real life case with real-life results.
It does not pay to represent yourself in this environment where every conviction has collateral consequences. Call us if you need help.