The truth is, no matter how smart or well educated you are, the criminal justice system makes it virtually impossible to do a competent job of representing yourself. Each criminal case is unique, and only a specialist criminal lawyer who is experienced in assessing the particulars of a case—and in dealing with the many variables that come up in every case—can provide the type of representation that every criminal defendant needs to receive if justice is to be done.
Having said that, the choice is yours and it is your right to decide whether or not you wish to have the services of a lawyer to defend you. Under the law, no one could obstruct you to be represented by a lawyer. Your right to be represented by a lawyer of your choice starts from the time you are put under arrest. Instead of having service of a lawyer only, you are also allowed to assemble a team of lawyers to defend you, if you wish and have the resources to do so.
Once you are arrested for a serious crime, most often than not, the arresting officer may wish to detain you. You may be detained exceeding 24 hours to assist the arresting officer or the investigating
detained exceeding 24 hours to assist the arresting officer or the investigating authority to complete their investigation. The detention exceeding the 24-hour period is only legal or allowed if a remand order is granted by court against you. Before the remand order is made, the magistrate hearing the remand application has to satisfy himself that there are grounds to have you remanded to assist the investigating officer or authority in the crime. After investigation is completed, you may be charged in court if investigation reveals that there is sufficient evidence in possession of the investigation authority to show that you have committed the crime investigated by them.
When Produced in Court for Remand Proceedings
When produced in court for a remand proceeding, it is advisable that you be represented by a lawyer who has some sound knowledge and experience in criminal law and justice.
The most important thing that the lawyer during remand proceedings must observe or find out is whether an investigation diary been transmitted to the magistrate in the remand application. This is a requirement under section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code. If the investigation diary of the investigating officer has not been transmitted to the magistrate, the remand application should not be granted. Your lawyer is not entitled to a copy of the investigation diary, but, your lawyer needs to inform the magistrate that if the investigation diary discloses no nexus or link between you and the crime alleged, you should be released unconditionally. Even if there is a need to remand you, your lawyer needs to argue and plead that the remand period should not be too long.
During the remand proceedings, your lawyer may also argue that under section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code only the investigating officer of the case could apply for the remand against you and if the application is made by other officers, you lawyer may wish to plead to the court to say the officer who appeared in the remand proceeding has no power to make such an application or he has no knowledge of the case or what went on about your case.
When You Are Charged For A Criminal Offence
On expiry of the remand period, the investigating authority may wish to charge you in court after directions being sought from the public prosecutor. The person who charged you in court could be an officer of the investigating authority or a deputy public prosecutor. The officer of the investigating authority could not charge you in court unless he is empowered to do so by the public prosecutor. Your lawyer needs to be alert of this requirement and if no objection is made it may be difficult for you, if convicted by the trial court, to take this as a point of appeal before the High Court or to the Court of Appeal.
The next thing that your lawyer needs to know is whether the charge framed against you is or not defective in law. The tricky thing is when would be the most appropriate time your lawyer should object to the defective charge? Some lawyers may wish to wait until the end of the prosecution case to inform the court that the charge is defective, but once alerted of the defective charge, the court or the prosecution may wish to amend the charge. There could be some legal arguments here when attempt be made to amend the charge at that stage and your lawyer must be ready to argue. Some lawyers may prefer to object this only after defence is called or to argue on this point when there is an appeal against the case.
When the charge is read to you, it is advisable not to plead guilty, especially, if the penalty for the offence is very heavy. You cannot guarantee that the judge would be lenient to you just because you have pleaded guilty. The trend these days have changed and it is different from some ten years ago where court was lenient to those who pleaded guilty. It is observed that the law has been amended often for most offences to include whipping and longer imprisonment terms in these offences once convicted. Therefore, the possibility of facing stiff penalty upon a plea of guilty could not be discounted.
Recent trend is that although an accused person pleads guilty and be given jail terms and heavy fines, public prosecutor will still file appeal against sentences passed by the trial court and seek higher penalties before the appeal court. Therefore, your agony does not end there just because you have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to jail. It has been noted too often, accused persons pleaded guilty because they were told to do so or been under threat of additional charges by law enforcement officers if they did not plead guilty. Do not be a fool and be misled by them because these officers wanted to do a short cut job. Perhaps they may fear that you will never be convicted of the crime charged if a lawyer is engaged.
Under the law, you are entitled to be represented by lawyers and do not require you to plead guilty or to admit to the crime. You have a right to keep silent and to let the prosecution to prove the case against you.