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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.
by: Paul Bergman
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