Your Constitutional Right to Counsel

If you are facing criminal charges, you may wonder whether if you should hire an attorney to represent you. While many people may consider hiring an attorney, they may not fully realize that they do not just have the option to have a lawyer, but they have the actual right to have counsel if they so choose in many cases.

The right to counsel stems from several different sources. First, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States sets out that an accused person in a criminal prosecution has the right to have the “Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” While this right originally only applied to federal cases, a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) later applied the right to counsel to all state felony prosecutions, as well. Additionally, people facing misdemeanor charges have a right to counsel when there is a possible sentence of jail time.

The right to counsel is generally triggered when judicial proceedings begin against you, such as an indictment. From then on, you have the right to counsel at every major court proceeding in your case under the Sixth Amendment. Furthermore, prior to receiving any formal charges, you still have the right to counsel if you so choose during police interrogations and communications under the Fifth Amendment. Once you are in custody, law enforcement officers are required to inform you of this right to counsel by reading you your “Miranda rights.” It is always a good idea to ask for an attorney as soon as you can when confronted by police, and be careful not to speak with officers without counsel present.

Can I afford an attorney?

The right to counsel even extends to people who cannot afford an attorney. If you show that you cannot pay a criminal defense attorney, but still want assistance of counsel, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you for little to no charge. Sometimes this attorney is from the public defender’s office, and sometimes it is a private lawyer from the community who is willing to take certain cases pro bono, which means for the public good. Other times, people who do not believe they can afford an attorney are surprised to find an experienced Chicago criminal defense who is highly skilled, has affordable rates, and works with clients to make sure they receive the best outcome in their case.

Effective Assistance

The right to counsel does not necessarily help a person facing criminal charges if the attorney representing them is not competent in criminal matters. To address this matter, the law further requires that a lawyer not simply provide assistance, but that he provides effective assistance. If you believe an attorney was ineffective in his representation at a guilty plea, at trial, or at any other time, you should always seek the help of a different experienced attorney to help you appeal any resulting conviction.

Always remember that you have a right to have an attorney if you are facing criminal charges. Do not hesitate to contact experienced defense lawyer Steven Goldman at Goldman & Associates for help as soon as possible.

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