Charles Hamilton, a Florida man accused of transporting 60 pounds of marijuana, served as his own lawyer in the trial and sentence hearing, arguing that he disagrees with Illinois drug laws and admitting he brought drugs into the state. In November 2011, Hamilton was arrested during a traffic stop on Interstate 55 north of Bloomington, Illinois. He even gave permission to an Illinois State Police trooper to search the truck. About 60 pounds of marijuana was found in a spare fuel tank on his pickup truck. Hamilton was sentenced to 22 years in prison for felony drug trafficking charges.
Many times, people feel that they are able to represent themselves pro se, or by themselves, without a licensed attorney to represent them or other court appointed officer. This is an option for everyone who enters into the justice system above the age of 18, assuming they are competent to understand the nature of the proceedings and the weight they are undertaking when establishing their own defense. Even though many people every day are found eligible to represent themselves, that does not mean they should. Many do not understand the process nor the repercussions of statements made to anyone regarding the case.
Evidence rules and rules of criminal procedure set out standards of conduct and allowable methods of proving guilt and innocence in the court room. These rules are complex and involve major study to understand the legal possibilities in one’s case. For many, this means having extensive knowledge of 4th, 5th, and, 6th amendment protections. This means knowing almost everything there is to know on search and seizure, admissibility of evidence, rights on appeal, and other very important legal consequences that one may or may not be aware of.
The biggest problem that pro se litigants face when defending themselves is statements made to prosecutors and witnesses. When one is accused a crime, the first thing people do is ask one if one did or did not commit the crime. Sometimes one will make one statement to a witness, and another or substantially different statement to the State Attorney. Whether one has or has not committed the crime, one can cause oneself an extreme amount of grief in the system.
One of the most notorious problems pro se litigants as well as accused parties represented by attorneys is admissions. In Hamilton’s trial, Hamilton admitted he was delivering the drugs to Chicago for a $15,000 fee. Hamilton admitted that he transported drugs because he had little money. Many times, accused parties feel that being honest and forthcoming will end in good consequences. However, the less one says, the better. Words and admissions can extremely hurt one’s defenses.
Remember that one has does have a choice in obtaining an attorney to represent one. However, one should not obtain just any attorney. One charged with a crime of this nature should contact an experienced Jacksonville drug crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses against self-incrimination are known and protected.