A Former Prosecutor Defending Clients in Wyoming and South Dakota
The right to be presumed innocent and the right to a lawyer are cornerstones of the American criminal justice system.
The right to a lawyer is found in the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. It means that in any criminal case the accused has the right to be represented by a competent attorney.
The right to a lawyer applies not just at trial, but at all phases of a criminal investigation, including arrest and investigation, pre-trial negotiations, at trial, and at the first appeal after a conviction.
The 1963 US Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainright established that a person accused of a serious crime has the right to an attorney.
In that case Clarence Gideon, a drifter with an eighth-grade education, was charged with breaking and entering with the intent to commit a misdemeanor. The crime was a felony in Florida.
Gideon asked for and was denied an attorney and represented himself at trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Gideon appealed his conviction on the basis that the judge refused his request for a lawyer.
Finding in favor of Gideon, the US Supreme court held that the right to a lawyer is fundamental and essential to a fair trial. Writing for the majority, Justice Black stated that the idea of a fair trial “cannot be realized if [a man] has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him."
In the 1972 case of Argersinger v. Hamlin the Supreme Court extended this protection to people accused of misdemeanor crimes.
The government, through law enforcement agencies, is charged with protecting our safety and general welfare. Using this authority, federal, state, and local government officials have the power to detain, question, and arrest people.
As a check on this government power, people are guaranteed certain rights, including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the right to a criminal defense lawyer.
In fact, if you are accused of a crime, a criminal defense attorney may be the only one standing between you and a criminal conviction, which may carry with it hefty fines and possible jail time.
The idea behind the right to counsel stems from the idea that ordinary people are not familiar enough with the law and all its nuances to be able to adequately defend themselves against the accusation that they have committed a crime.
The right to a lawyer also arises from the idea that the government can and will intimidate a defendant into doing something that will compromise their defense.
The rules that relate to detaining and questioning a subject are complicated. Even for a lawyer, it is easy to forget or misinterpret these laws under the stress and duress of questioning during an arrest.
The right to an attorney means that you have the right to counsel at any adversarial, critical stage of a criminal proceeding. These critical stages include police interrogations and questioning, a criminal line-up, physical examinations, arraignment, during plea negotiations, at any criminal hearing, trial, and on appeal.
An attorney can help you by advising you of your rights, formulating a defense strategy, helping you to avoid incriminating yourself, and questioning a witness.
Many people wrongfully believe that at their first appearance in court, called arraignment, they simply enter a guilty plea, are given probation, and move on.
Others will enter a guilty plea in an effort to avoid what they fear will be a lengthy legal process, or to avoid pretrial incarceration.
What many people fail to understand is that by pleading guilty, even to something apparently minor, they set themselves up for what could be years of unforeseen consequences.
People also fail to understand that hiring a lawyer could help them avoid jail altogether, and that before the trial they could be released on their own recognizance.
Criminal charges are too serious to leave to chance. You need a team of experienced criminal defense professionals on your side. A group of people who have dedicated their careers to protecting your one shot at justice.
At Just Criminal Law our team of criminal defense professionals is here to support you. From your initial meeting to the final hearing, our highly trained and experienced staff will spend as much time as it takes to understand you, your case, and your needs.
We offer a quick and easy consultation that is intended to ease your mind and answer your questions about the criminal process.
We understand that criminal cases take a long time. From police investigations that drag on for months, to having your case scheduled according to the court’s calendar, and not yours, we understand that a criminal case can be stressful and nerve-wracking.
Regardless of how long it takes, we’ll go the distance, and will use that time to develop your strongest legal defense, and help you to weigh all your options.
We also understand that in many cases, there are impacts beyond just the person on trial. People weigh the decision to take a plea deal or go to trial based on how those decisions will impact their families. At Just Criminal Law, we’ll help you to weigh those concerns, and answer your questions about the impact of a conviction. We’ll make sure you know the risks and consequences of a plea deal, and help you to understand the impact those decisions will have on you and your loved ones.
If you think you’re under investigation for a crime, it’s never too early to talk to a criminal defense lawyer. Our team is here to help.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.