Recently I had two calls from people looking for lawyers in Illinois that were different yet very similar.
Call number one was from a guy who had been convicted of theft. He chose to represent himself and lost his case after his argument to the Judge failed. His argument was based on something he read on the internet that if he refused to acknowledge the court had authority over him, they couldn’t convict him.
The second case was sadder. A woman called me after she had gone to court in a family law case. She too represented herself. Her ex wanted visitation, and it was granted. The problem with that is that he’s a pedophile. The Judge would not listen to her when she tried to bring that up.
Both of these people want to get a lawyer now and essentially have a do-over. The problem is that it’s too late.
While they can hire lawyers, they can only do so for an appeal (if it’s not too late) or if new evidence has developed since the court hearing. Learning that your internet arguments aren’t real or wanting to get the Judge to listen to you isn’t a new development. The pedophile did his gross acts years ago, not since the visitation ruling.
While it would be nice if courts worked in a way that made it easier for people to represent themselves, the hard truth is that it doesn’t. A lawyer for the guy charged would theft would have explained that their argument was not a real one. They also would likely have gotten him supervision which ultimately would be a dismissal of the case. Now this too smart for his own good guy is going to spend some time in jail.
The woman who lost her visitation case would have been way better with an attorney. They would know how to properly present evidence of pedophilia including how to properly bring in witnesses and experts that could testify about the danger to the kids. That didn’t happen and she lost and unfortunately, the kids are at risk. The worst-case scenario with a lawyer likely would have been supervised visitation.
I get that lawyers can be expensive. And it’s certainly possible to represent yourself and get a good result. But you must remember that you only get one chance at this, and if things don’t work out, there won’t be a do-over. So the safest thing is always going to be to have an attorney, especially if the stakes are high. The time to not get a lawyer is when it would cost more than the case is worth. But when prison time or safety are at stake, or if you’ve been injured in an accident, you have too much to lose by going at it alone.
My common statement when people ask me if they can represent themselves is that if your stomach hurts, you can get a knife and remove your own appendix, but the smarter thing is to have a doctor who has done it 1,000 times handle it. It’s not much different when it comes to hiring a lawyer in Illinois.
If you would like to speak to an experienced Illinois attorney for free, contact us at 312-346-5320. We cover all of Illinois.