Thinking of representing yourself in a Tennessee DUI case? Don’t do it

It is tempting for many people to make the decision to self-represent themselves in a DUI charge, but this can be a bad idea.

The do-it-yourself concept is one that is popular with many people living in Knoxville. They look up instructions on how to build a treehouse, grow a beautiful garden, fix a computer issue, repair their car and create unique pieces for their home. Therefore, when people find themselves facing a legal matter, like driving under the influence of alcohol, they may feel confident that they can handle the issue themselves.

The Constitution Center states that under the Sixth Amendment, people have the right to act as their own legal counsel. However, it must be remembered that when the amendment was established, the court system was much different than it is today. Today, the amount of evidence is greater and often more scientific or technical. Juries are not made up of neighbors who know the person, but of complete strangers who are asked to evaluate the evidence and arguments, and then decide whether a person is guilty of the offense. This can put people without any knowledge of the law at a distinct disadvantage.

Legal experience is a necessity

As the court system has grown with time, so too has the amount of paperwork and the complexity of the judicial process. Certain documents need to be filed with the court within a specific amount of time. These documents may include motions for dismissal, evidence submission, requests to subpoena witnesses or arguments to have evidence thrown out.

The American Bar Association points out that attorneys have spent time in a special school studying the law. This gives them an understanding of how the legal system works; the examination and locating of evidence; formulating arguments based on previous court rulings, state or federal law, and the evidence in the case; and how to apply the law to each client's situation. Additionally, many attorneys attend courses each year that help them stay informed as to the latest changes in law and the new strategies such as using social media or questioning the results of a breath test.

Investigation skills

A charge and conviction concerning DUI comes with several penalties, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security. For example, a first-time DUI offense can come with an order to pay restitution fees, court fines, revocation of the driver's license, jail time, possible alcohol or drug treatment, and the requirement of an ignition interlock device.

Many people often just decide to plead guilty, but what they may not realize is that there could have been mistakes made during the officer's traffic stop. A skilled attorney will conduct an investigation to determine whether people's rights were violated. The attorney may also be able to gather evidence that shows the person's blood alcohol content level was due to a health condition, not to the consumption of alcohol. This information could then be used to negotiate for the dropping or reduction of drunk driving charges. Therefore, people should consider meeting with an attorney.