Tulsa Attorney BlogPro Se in Court: Don’t Waive Rights!

Once Rights Are Waved You Can’t Get It Back

Video Transcribed:  My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m a Tulsa lawyer working with the Wirth Law Office. I want to talk to you today about what you shouldn’t do when you appear in court pro se. Specifically, what I’m talking about is waiving rights. Never waive rights if you’re in court pro se.

Unless you are really familiar with the effect of waiving the right, and you understand the tactical implications of doing so, you’re always better off to stand on your rights. Get a lawyer. One example of that is don’t waive a jury trial. Once it’s waived, you can’t get it back. That’s typical with any rights. For example, in felony court, if you waive your right to a preliminary hearing, you can’t get that right back. The court will tell you that, but the point of it is, do not waive rights if you’re there pro se.

wirth lawThe court will pretty much always give you time to get a lawyer. Obviously, don’t joke around with that. If you get a pass to get a lawyer, then go get a lawyer, but definitely don’t waive rights. If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer to represent you in the matter, at least spend $100 or $200 and talk to somebody before you start waiving rights that you can’t get back. The jury of the trial right’s an important right.

The right to a preliminary hearing is an important right. There are a lot of other important rights that you can waive without understanding what it means to you, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. You don’t get it back. All of those rights exist for a reason.

Jury trial right’s there because you have a right to be judged by your peers, but as a practical matter in court, sometimes you get… Depending on what your particular circumstances are, you may have a better defense in front of a jury than a judge. Or you may have a better defense in front of a judge than a jury.

But really, unless you’re familiar with how the court system works, how juries tend to behave, how judges tend to behave, and how your specific judge tends to view a particular set of circumstances, you have no idea, and you’re not in a good position to make an informed choice whether or not you want to waive your right to a jury. Similarly, with, for example, the felony court, if you have a right to a preliminary hearing, there may be circumstances where you want to waive that right, but there are also circumstances where you don’t.

It is an important right. Among other things, it gives you an opportunity to get a preview of what the State’s evidence is. In Oklahoma, you, generally speaking, don’t get to depose witnesses in criminal cases, so essentially, your preliminary hearing is a limited opportunity, but it is an opportunity to get them on the record to find out what they’re going to say in court before you get to the stage of the trial. It’s an important right and these rights shouldn’t be waived without knowledge.

For those reasons, you really should not waive any rights if you’re in court pro se, at least not until after you’ve spoken to a lawyer who can explain to you the implications of waiving rights, and who can advise you as to the particulars of your circumstance.

Ideally, you want to have somebody representing you in any court case, but if you really can’t afford it, at least pay for an hour and ask them questions. Ask them lots of questions because you may be waving away important procedural rights that could help you get a better outcome in your particular circumstances, and you might make your life more difficult than you have to.

"Make law easy!"