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


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


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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