Do I need a lawyer to get ARD?
“He who represents himself has a fool for a client”
Many people believe that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest presidents in American history, and he is credited with the phrase above. When considering whether or not a person “needs” a lawyer, you must realize that the lawyer a service, just like an electrician or a mechanic. In some situations, a little Do-It-Yourself or DIY is okay. In your home, you don’t need an electrician to change a light bulb, and you don’t need a mechanic to put air in your tires. Simple DIY tasks can be done safely and with confidence that they were done correctly. However, if the task becomes more complicated, like running electrical wires through the walls or changing the brakes on a car, the DIY approach is not recommended. If a person makes a mistake on the brake fix or the wire job, the result could be catastrophic and life-altering. Resolving a criminal case is no different. Many people have appeared in court to negotiate the reduction of a speeding ticket, which is the DIY equivalent of changing a light bulb. When ARD is a consideration, the charge involved is much more severe than speeding, so the stakes are higher. It is not recommended that the DIY or self-representation approach is used with bigger cases involving ARD.
People want an ARD resolution because it is basically a guaranteed dismissal of the charges, and upon dismissal, the charges can be expunged. But, in order to get the ultimate result, meaning the expungement, the person must first be approved for ARD, placed on ARD, complete ARD, and then file the dismissal and expungement paperwork correctly. If a person screws up anywhere along that path to expungement, the person could end up with a criminal record, so a catastrophic result. Getting ARD may be a relatively easy task for an experienced criminal defense attorney, similar to changing brakes being a relatively easy task for an experienced mechanic, but neither task is easy for a normal person.
Some people choose to try self-representation and only hire a lawyer IF problems arise. The downside to this approach is that when problems arise, it is often much more work to fix a problem, and there are some situations in which the problem cannot be fixed. If you wire your house and it burns down, it cannot be fixed. If you wire the house and it doesn’t work, you pay the electrician to remove your wiring and then start over. Legal representation is not different. Fixing mistakes takes more time and costs more money than it would have cost if you hired the attorney from the start.
Peace of Mind
There is also a peace of mind factor to consider. Going back to the mechanic analogy above, when the mechanic changes the brakes, you trust that the mechanic did his job. When you are approaching a red light and hitting the brakes, you have confidence that the car will stop when you hit the brakes and you do not have stress or anxiety. Hiring a good defense lawyer should give a client the same peace of mind. If the client has confidence in the lawyer’s abilities, then the client can focus on other things. Regrettably, too many people place a greater emphasis on the cost of attorney as opposed to skill, and the people hire an attorney that is not even trusted. Remember, you get what you pay for. If you hire a good defense lawyer, you are hiring the lawyer to fix the problem, and the good lawyers will tell you what is going to happen and when. Knowledge of the process and what to expect allows the client to focus on other things. The best criminal defense attorneys possess similar qualities that should be reviewed by prospective clients.
The attorneys at JD Law have been providing criminal defense representation to Penn State students and others since 2004. For a free consultation with an experienced State College criminal defense lawyer, contact JD Law by email or by calling (814) 954-7622.