Posts tagged with "Right to Counsel"

Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel

By: Undisputed Legal/Court Service Department

A. When Right Attaches 

1. The Sixth Amendment provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” 

a. State constitution, Const. art. I, § 22, is co-extensive with the Sixth Amendment. See generally State v. Medlock, 86 Wn. App. 89, 97-935 P.2d 693, review denied, 133 Wn.2d 1012 (1997). 

2. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not attach until a prosecution is commenced, that is, at or after the initiation of adversary judicial criminal proceedings, whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment. McNeil v. Wisconsin, 501 U.S. 171, 175, 115 L. Ed. 2d 158, 111 S. Ct. 2204 (1991). 

a. A defendant’s custodial status is irrelevant to the determination of whether the Sixth Amendment right to counsel has attached. 

Fifth Amendment Right To Counsel – Know Your Rights

By: Undisputed Legal/Court Service Department

Constitutional Requirement

1. No person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against him/herself. (Fifth Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

  1. Right must be asserted to take effect.
  2. Provision prevents the defendant from being called as a witness for the prosecution in a criminal case.
  3. Provision prevents the prosecution or any witness from commenting upon the defendant’s failure to take the stand or to answer questions.
  4. Limited to testimonial evidence (oral or written).

Landmark Case – Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

Right to Counsel, Due Process

“If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in his prison cell . . . to write a letter to the Supreme Court . . . the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed. But Gideon did write that letter, the Court did look into his case . . . and the whole course of American legal history has been changed.” —Robert F. Kennedy

In June 1961, a burglary occurred at the Bay Harbor Pool Room in Panama City, FL.  Police arrested Clarence Earl Gideon after he was found nearby with a pint of wine and some change in his pockets. Gideon, who could not afford a lawyer, asked a Florida Circuit Court judge to appoint one for him arguing that the Sixth Amendment entitles everyone to a lawyer. The judge denied his request and Gideon was left to represent himself. He did a poor job of defending himself and was found guilty of breaking and entering and petty larceny. While serving his sentence in a Florida state prison, Gideon began studying law, which reaffirmed his belief his rights were violated when the Florida Circuit Court refused his request for counsel. From his prison cell, he handwrote a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case and it agreed. The Court unanimously ruled in Gideon’s favor, stating that the Six Amendment requires state courts to provide attorneys for criminal defendants who cannot otherwise afford counsel.