Can my friend or relative represent me in my criminal case?

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Question:

Can my friend or relative represent me in my criminal case?

Answer:

Only licensed attorneys can represent defendants in court. For example, one spouse who is not a lawyer can’t represent another spouse, and a nonlawyer parent can’t represent a child. No matter how much a defendant trusts and respects a relative or friend, defendants must choose between self-representation and representation by an attorney.

Defendants also sometimes think that if they give "power of attorney" to a relative or friend, that person can represent them. Alas, no. A “power of attorney” is a document that can enable a relative or friend to handle a defendant’s property (such as a house or a bank account) as an “attorney in fact.” A power of attorney can even designate one person to make health care decisions for another.

But a power of attorney cannot convey the right to represent a defendant in a criminal case. State and federal statutes give lawyers a monopoly on this activity. This is true even though one of the powers often set out in a power of attorney document allows the attorney in fact to prosecute and defend actions in court; this has been interpreted to allow the attorney in fact to hire an actual licensed attorney to do the court work.

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