What are the risks of representing myself at court?

There is an old adage which provides that a person representing themselves has a fool for a client. This may be no more applicable than when dealing with a criminal law matter.

There are a number of risks in representing yourself at court in a criminal or traffic matter. They would include:

  • Lack of preparation – engaging an experienced criminal law solicitor will ensure that your matter is properly prepared. Organising the right documents will also provide the magistrate or judge with assistance in understanding what subjective factors are to be relied upon for the purpose of sentencing. Further, if you are defending a criminal charge, it is vital to have the appropriate documents available to support any defence relied upon.

  • Inexperience – most people have never set foot in a courtroom before and it can be an intimidating experience. To then have to speak to a magistrate or judge about something that you are emotionally invested in can be very difficult. It is not uncommon to see unrepresented people have great difficulty in speaking to a magistrate or judge directly and this might mean that you are unable to tell the court what you wanted to say. It may also affect the outcome that you receive.

  • Knowing what to say – an experienced criminal law solicitor will know what is likely to be most beneficial before a magistrate or judge, increasing your prospects of a better outcome.

  • Practical considerations – there are many practical considerations to take into account when appearing in court. For example, most unrepresented defendants will have the matters heard in the afternoon, meaning that you will likely have to be at court for most of the day, whereas defendants with legal representatives will generally have their matters heard in the morning.

  • Risk of higher penalty – if you do not prepare the matter well, do not say the right things in court and do not understand the ramifications of the charges then you risk receiving a higher sentence than what might otherwise be the case had you been legally represented.


Contact the criminal law team at Brydens Lawyers on 1800 848 848 or at brydens.com.au to seek expert legal advice and representation in relation to any criminal or traffic law matter to ensure that you get the best result possible. A Brydens Lawyers – #WE DO criminal and traffic law matters.