Can I Represent Myself in Court? (Pro Per or Pro Se)
A party in a court case may choose to represent themself rather than be represented by an attorney. When choosing to do so, they are referred to as a “pro per” or “pro se” party, meaning they are appearing on their own behalf. These terms can be used interchangeably.
In some cases, this choice may be made in an effort to save money on hiring an attorney. In other cases, a litigant may feel that they have a thorough understanding of their case and the laws that surround it. Defendants charged with petty crimes, or spouses going through an uncontested divorce, may find that representing themselves in court is a more efficient means of representation.
For anyone unfamiliar with the legal system, navigating it can be a daunting task. The following links may be helpful for pro per and pro se individuals, including:
AZ Court Help – including a self-help center and form finder.
AZ Law Help – with information broken down by topic.
AZ Court Help Live Chat – available for chatting with law librarians.
Maricopa County Legal Information – a breakdown of what court clerks can and cannot assist with.
Maricopa County Superior Court Forms – court forms organized by case type for Maricopa County Superior Court cases.
Mohave County Forms and Kits – court forms organized by case type for Mohave County court cases.
Pinal County Superior Court Forms – court forms organized by case type for Pinal County Superior Court cases.
Coconino County Guide To Representing Yourself in Court – tips and general information.
Individuals representing themselves should always to their due diligence to ensure they are following court procedures and using the correct court forms and filing processes for the specific court in which their case is being heard.
Disadvantages of Representing Yourself in Court
One of the biggest drawbacks of pro per or pro se litigation is a lack of understanding of law and court procedures. Self-represented individuals may miss opportunities to file beneficial motions due to either missing court deadlines or being unaware of the ability in the first place. This can prolong the case or even cause sanctions to be levied against them, particularly in criminal cases.
Additionally, self-representation often comes with bias and an inability to understand the opposing party. This can be challenging in family law cases especially.
Without a full understanding of legal precedent, best interests, and court procedure, self-represented individuals may end up with an outcome that is less than favorable for them.
Attorneys have years of training in legal research and cross-examination, understanding of legal precedent, and the ability to communicate effectively with opposing counsel and judges, some of which they may have built a professional rapport with over the years. Self-represented individuals often find their efforts inferior to this level of experience.
RIDEOUT LAW GROUP
With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.
Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:
- charges that are reduced or dropped.
- top experts reviewing your case.
- aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
- fines or probation in lieu of jail time.
At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.
Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.