The right to an attorney for a criminal defendant is guaranteed under the United States Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, which mandates “aid of counsel” for the accused “in all criminal proceedings.” This indicates that a defendant has the right to be represented by an attorney during his or her trial under the law. It also means that if the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the government will nearly always appoint one for him or her at no cost to the criminal (this began in 1963 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an indigent defendant facing the possibility of incarceration).
While the right to counsel is covered below in the context of a criminal trial, a suspect has the right to counsel at practically every stage of the criminal process, often from arrest to the first appeal following conviction. Criminal suspects, for example, have the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent when being interviewed by authorities.
Learn more about the constitutional right to counsel, including when it applies and the requirements that criminal lawyers must meet, in the sections below.
In a criminal case, how does an attorney assist a defendant?
The role of the defense counsel is critical in practically every criminal case, especially those involving the risk of incarceration, because it’s difficult to set a price on one’s freedom. While an attorney’s particular responsibilities vary based on the nature of the allegations and the case, any criminal defense lawyer should be aware of the following:
advising the defendant of his or her rights and describing what to expect at various stages of the criminal process;
- Assuring that the defendant’s constitutional rights are not infringed upon by law enforcement or the court system; and
- On behalf of the defendant, negotiating a plea deal with the government.
- In addition to analyzing facts and evidence, a criminal defense attorney must also cross-examine government witnesses, object to incorrect questions and evidence, and provide any applicable legal defenses.
What are the expectations of a criminal defense lawyer?
The Sixth Amendment right to counsel has been interpreted by courts to provide criminal defendants “effective aid of counsel,” regardless of whether the attorney is retained by the defendant or appointed by the government. It’s crucial to remember that an attorney’s poor strategy decisions (and even major professional errors, in some cases) rarely result in a conviction being overturned. A conviction may be overturned if it is obvious that the attorney’s ineptitude influenced the case’s outcome.
This is especially problematic for people who are represented by public defenders, who are often very talented and dedicated, but who also have a lot of cases to handle and little resources (including the time needed to properly prepare a case). This incentivizes public defenders to seek plea bargains rather than pursuing each case to trial. Nonetheless, appointed lawyers must meet the same professional requirements as high-priced lawyers.
Find out more about your right to legal representation from an attorney.
Custodial interrogation triggers your right to counsel, while the term “custody” has multiple meanings depending on the circumstances. If you’re being investigated for a crime or have already been charged with one, it’s in your best interests to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer In Scottsdale or Phoenix?
Canterbury Law Group’s criminal defense lawyers in Phoenix and Scottsdale will defend your case with personal attention and always have you and your best interests in mind when offering legal solutions. Call today for an initial consultation! We handle criminal defense cases in all areas of Phoenix including Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Maryville, Apache Junction, and more.
We are experienced criminal defense attorneys and will fight for you to obtain the best possible outcome. Our firm will rigorously represent you, so you can get on with your life. Call today for an initial consultation! 480-744-7711 or [email protected]
*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.