I often speak with people who have been arrested and have upcoming court dates. Some say that they will appear in court on their own and just “see what happens”. Self representation is never a good idea. Abraham Lincoln correctly stated: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
So what's the problem with just appearing on my own to see if I really need a lawyer? There are numerous reasons why you should retain an attorney. With the exception of perhaps a traffic infraction, a person charged with a DUI, petty theft or any other misdemeanor as well as any felony needs qualified representation.
After a person is arrested, an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney can take action and help, even if that person might be guilty. Familiar with the court and the legal process, your attorney will understand which direction the case needs to go to obtain the best possible result. The fact of having an attorney itself sends the message that you are taking the case seriously and that you are prepared to take the case to trial if an acceptable settlement is not reached.
I represented a client in a Southern California court where the initial offer was over 2 years in state prison. My client was absolutely terrified. After several court dates, an independent investigation as well as negotiation, the client settled the case for a simple misdemeanor with only a small fine and not a day in jail.
In other cases, despite any evidence of guilt, law enforcement may not have followed proper arrest procedures or violated constitutional rights. In our legal system, if rights are violated, the case must either be dismissed or the evidence suppressed.
Facing an unfamiliar court environment without an attorney is contrary to your best interests. My lengthy experience in courts has clearly shown me that it is rare that your legal adversaries will assist you in your defense.
Bottom line: Take your court date seriously and hire a lawyer!