I dont need no stinkin lawyer!

All Jeffrey Miller wanted to do was to fire his lawyer. But the Judge wouldn't let him. Now, the Oregon Court of Appeals has reversed his convictions because he was forced to go to trial with a lawyer.

Most people are familiar with the 6th Amendment's guarantee of legal representation. In a criminal case, you have the right to be represented by an attorney of your choosing or to insist that the court appoints a lawyer at no cost to you if you cannot afford to retain one on your own.

Somewhat less known, even to some judges it seems, is the flip-side of that 6th Amendment coin. The 6th Amendment guarantees you the right to represent yourself. Provided the decision to represent one's self is made knowingly and intelligently and provided the individual will not unduly disrupt the court process, the courts must honor a person's choice to represent themselves. A lawyer cannot be forced on you against your wishes.

On the day before his trial was to begin, after having already been rescheduled six times in the past, Mr. Miller informed the court he wanted to fire his court-appointed lawyer. The court told him that trial would begin no matter who his attorney was the next morning. The next morning Mr. Miller appeared with his court-appointed attorney who had been working on his case for over a year and a half. Mr. Miller told the court he did not want her services any longer and wished to represent himself. Citing the fact that Mr. Miller had just objected to some oral motions made by the government which were favorable to him, the court simply told him that he could not represent himself and began the trial.

This the Court of Appeals said today was error. Mr. Miller had the right to represent himself and his convictions for delivery and possession of methamphetamine and marijuana were reversed.

Ironically, in the same decision, the Court of Appeals also reversed the trial court and threw out evidence that police seized as the result of an invalid warrant search of his home. It seems that the lawyer Mr. Miller was so intent on firing had filed a Motion to Suppress this evidence and ultimately prevailed.

Mr. Miller got lucky we think, the judge's ruling was patently wrong. we also think that Mr. Miller shouldn't press his luck in round two. It is never a good idea to represent yourself when facing criminal charges - particularly serious drug felonies. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer and working closely with them will give you the best chance for success. Don't let Mr. Miller's once in a lifetime bonanza convince you otherwise.


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