What is My Right to Counsel?

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution allows for everyone who is being criminally prosecuted to have “assistance of counsel for his defense”. This means that in every case, without exception, a defendant has the right to an attorney in order to provide defense. The right for counsel only goes into effect when legal proceedings start. This can vary greatly from case to case. For example, if the first step in the judicial proceedings is the arraignment, then the defendant has a right to have an attorney present for this process. In cases with a grand jury indictment, the right to counsel begins at this time. However, sometimes the defendant may not be aware until he is arrested. In this case, the right to counsel begins at the time of arrest. You can hire your own attorney or, if you are unable to afford one, the court will provide a public defender.

Miranda Warnings

The legal process has put Miranda warnings into place to ensure that defendants are aware of their right to counsel at the time of their arrest. There is a common misunderstanding that if you aren’t read your Miranda warning then the case against you will be thrown out. Actually, the simple explanation is that just because your rights weren’t read doesn’t mean the entire case is void. Sometimes the warning wasn’t read at a specific time in your arrest but was read later on. Many times the police did not read the warning yet did not ask you any questions. This is sometimes done as you are being transported to the police station. If the police failed to give you the Miranda warning it may mean that anything you said cannot be used in the case. An attorney will be able to review the situation and determine how to proceed.

Waiving Miranda Rights

The police will read you the Miranda warning and will ask if you understand what it means. After that point, anything that you say, even without the presence of a lawyer, can be used against you in the case. If you decide to answer questions after being provided with your Miranda warning you have waived your rights and have agreed to answering questions without an attorney being present. It is advisable to always seek counsel from an attorney anytime you have been charged with a crime. When you waive your rights it is certain that you’re treading on dangerous territory.  While it may seem as though you’ll be able to answer a couple of simple questions, especially if you feel you’re not guilty, answering them can lead to problems. It’s always best to get legal counsel, even if you think you didn’t do anything wrong.

Seeking Legal Counsel

Some people feel that by hiring a lawyer they are admitting guilt. This is definitely not the case. The legal system is set up to protect you and defend your rights. If you waive these rights you won’t have a fail trial. It is especially hard for those with no criminal background to seek legal help. However, it is essential to your successful defense. In fact, the sooner you hire an attorney the better prepared your lawyer will be for giving you the best possible legal counsel, no matter what type of case you’re involved in. When choosing an attorney it is best to opt for a legal firm with experience in the specific type of crime that you are charged with. A criminal attorney is necessary for properly defending your charges. Contact an attorney as soon as you are given the opportunity and prior to answering any questions.