Can I represent myself in court? | Free Legal Advice | MAJ Law Ltd

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Can I represent myself in court for drink driving?

By law, you are entitled to represent yourself in court, but this is a high-risk strategy. If you represent yourself you will be known as a 'litigant in person'. Judiciary.uk defines a 'litigant in person' as person who has to go to court without legal representation from a solicitor or barrister. Most people facing a criminal conviction will have a solicitor or barrister with them during a court hearing. A solicitor or barrister is a legally trained advocate who can address the Magistrates', District Judge or Jury on your behalf. We would always advise having a regulated and qualified person with you in court and here's why;

  1. Options. A solicitor will be able to obtain the initial evidence and advise you on your options. This might include pleading guilty, not guilty or a basis of plea. If the evidence is incorrect, your solicitor may be able to force the CPS to drop the case. 
  2. Defences. We spend a lot of time defending drink and drug driving cases. When our clients first make contact with us, they assume they'll have to plead guilty. We are able to explain what defences apply and how likely they are to succeed. Take a look at the best drink driving defences of 2021
  3. Mitigation. If you do plead guilty you will have the opportunity to raise 'mitigation'. LexisNexis defines mitigation as 'submissions made by the defendant or their representative as part of the sentencing process, presenting the information or evidence which they rely on to mitigate their role or involvement in the offence or their personal circumstances so that the judge can take this into account in sentencing'. Most people believe that mitigation is best presented by an advocate than a defendant. This is because it can come across as a 'sob story' if told by a defendant. In addition, whilst presenting mitigation it's important to understand the sentencing guidelines for drink driving. This way, your advocate can 'shape' your mitigation to reduce the penalty.
  4. Pressure. Do you know what to look for? You are always entitled to see some evidence on or before your first court hearing. The kind of evidence provided in drink driving cases is highly technical. It's made up of procedural forms and documents. If you attend court alone, you may not pick up on the mistakes with the paperwork. Solicitors are trained to identify defences quickly and use these to put pressure on the CPS. Many of our cases are dropped on or before the first hearing. 
  5. The 'groundwork'. If you do plead not guilty, the court will want to know the reasons why. A barrister a solicitor knows how to clearly present the defence issues and arguments to the court in way which the court will understand.


Are litigants in person successful?

Reviewing prosecution evidence, preparing and submitting legal arguments and challenging a case in court can be difficult if you don't specialise in defending motoring offences. It is important you get specialist legal advice from us at the earliest opportunity.

Can a family member represent me in court? 

A family member may offer their support to you during your court case. However, a family member cannot represent you in court. They cannot speak to the court on your behalf nor can they complete any important court documents on your behalf.

What will I have to say in court?

The court will want you to explain the reasons as to why you want to challenge the allegation. Technical defences require lots of consideration to the facts of the case. Criminal allegations including drink driving and drug driving can have serious implications including a custodial sentence, so should be taken seriously.

What if I cannot afford a solicitor?

You might choose you have no other option but to represent yourself because you cannot afford legal representation. We always offer a clear fee structure during our initial conversation and it's always a fixed fee.

Will I be successful if represent myself at court?

A number of sources have revealed that litigants in person may have difficulty understanding the nature of the proceedings and become overwhelmed with the oral and procedural demands of the courtroom. Studies show that litigants in person also have difficulty in explaining their case and can often end up 'over-explaining' or 'saying too much', jeopardising their chances of successfully defending a criminal allegation.  

Research also suggests that litigants in person will encounter a number of problems when representing themselves in court, such as:

  • understanding evidential requirements
  • difficulties with forms
  • identifying facts relevant to the case
  • understanding what constitutes a defence

FAQs - Representing yourself in court

1. How much preparation time will I need?

The groundwork involved in dealing with a criminal case can be time consuming even if your case is straightforward. 

2. How long will my case go on for? 

If you plead not guilty, criminal cases can take months to resolve. Pleading guilty will always result in an instant ban and that your case will conclude on the same day.

3. Can I use my personal circumstances as a defence to drink driving?

Many people charged with drink driving believe that the court will be less harsh with sentencing if they tell the court about any personal or mitigating circumstances. The courts hands are tied when it comes to sentencing for drink driving. An early guilty plea will still mean a minimum 12 month driving disqualification.