Your Right to Represent Yourself in a California Criminal Case

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Just because you can, it doesn't mean you should


It is very important that you learn about what is at stake if you have a criminal case in California, and what you will be expected to do and know in order to represent yourself. Remember, there are many intricacies involved in a criminal case that you should be aware of and prepared for.


It may not be a good idea to represent yourself in a criminal case if:

  • You have a very complicated case and serious criminal charges have been filed against you.

  • You are going to have a jury trial.

  • You are influenced emotionally to the case and have a difficult time seeing things objectively.

  • The price you'd have to pay if you lose your case, both monetary and in jail time.


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Regardless Of Where You Are In The Criminal Justice Process, Remember Your Rights:


  • To remain silent

  • To due process of the law before being deprived of life, liberty, or property

  • To humane treatment at all times

  • To speak with an attorney privately, even if you cannot afford to pay for one

  • To be read your constitutional Miranda rights

  • To be told you are being arrested and informed of any and all charges against you

  • Against unreasonable searches and seizures

  • Against excessive bail


“Just because you can, it doesn't mean you should represent yourself in a California criminal court.”

Understanding How The Criminal Process Works In California


If you’re under suspicion of committing a crime in the of California, the police will begin a criminal investigation. This process involves a comprehensive analysis of any evidence that could determine whether or not you committed a crime.


This evidence is obtained through interviews with people, associates, witnesses or groups associated with the crime under investigation. A police officer may request an interview with you to gather more evidence and confirm if they are able to file charges against you.


Ideally, at this point you already have a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who can represent you during any interviews and advice you of your legal rights.

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After a criminal investigation, an arrest will be made if law enforcement has enough justifiable evidence that proves you have committed a crime. After an arrest, you’re taken to jail, and one of three possible things can happen:


  1. You remain in custody.

  2. You will be released after some time if charges aren’t filed.

  3. You post bail with a promise to show up in court for an arraignment.


The arraignment is the first court appearance following an arrest. During this hearing, you will hear from the prosecutor all the charges against you. At your arraignment, you will also enter a plea. Your criminal defense attorney can go over your rights and develop a plan of action. You'll be required to enter one of three pleas:


  1. Guilty – You admit to all the charges that have been filed against you..

  2. Not Guilty – You object to the charges against you.