Right to Counsel

Having a Right to counsel is a privilege that should be an option to any citizen that has committed and arrested for a crime that they may or may not have committed. The Right to Counsel comes from the last part of the sixth amendment that states “to have the assistance of counsel for his defense”. In this essay the development of the right to counsel, when the right to council attaches to criminal procedures, the right to self-representation, and the role of an attorney as it is applied to the right to council will be discussed.

Right to Counsel Historically, the right to counsel had meant that there was a right to have a retained counsel. This means that if a defendant could afford an attorney then they had a right to one, however, a poor defendant did not have this right (“Civics Library”, 2006). The right to counsel had started in 1932 in the Supreme Court and had later been applied to the sixth amendment (“Right to Counsel”, 2013).

In 1932 a case consisting of Powell v. Alabama, the courts found that under certain types of circumstances that free counsel had to be provided to criminal defendants. The main topic of this case was that the defendant’s due process rights’ were violated because there was a denial of the right to counsel to the defendants (Zalman, 2011). Right to Counsel Attachments At a pretrial hearing, counsel is required if a lawyer plays a significant part of the case. If the arraignment is a simple case where there are no major decisions to be made then no attorney needs to represent the defendant (Zalman, 2011).

If an accused person is questioned by the police then the right to counsel then becomes attached to help protect the accused’s rights against self-incrimination. The Fifth Amendment attaches the right to counsel when an investigation becomes accusatory and focus on a specific person. When a defendant becomes charged with an offense, the right to counsel does not become attached to the initial appearance in front of a magistrate. The magistrate simply has to advise the defendant of their right to counsel and other rights.

The counsel becomes attached to the defendants if a bail amount is sent, a plea is entered, or if there is a preliminary hearing is scheduled from the charges (Right to Counsel, 2013). The right to counsel provides the right to a defense attorney for a person, but it also allows the accused to represent themselves in a case. When this occurs, the accused not the counsel is informed of the cause of the accusation. A judge has to be convinced that the accused has the minimal ability to conduct a trial.

A person who wants to represent themselves does not have to have the skills, knowledge, or experience that a lawyer has in order to choose to represent themselves. The defendant cannot be denied self-representation due to lack of knowledge of the criminal law or procedures of the courts (Zalman, 2011). Attorney Roles A defense attorney is of high importance in just about any criminal court case and carries a variety of duties depending on what the charges are in each case.

As stated before, a suspect has the right to this attorney during most phases of the criminal process. The main responsibilities of a defense lawyer is to ensure that the defendants constitutional rights are not being violated by any law enforcement conduct or during the court proceedings, to advise the defendant of their rights, explain to them what they should expect during all stages of the court process, negotiate a plea bargain for the defendant, and to answer any questions the accused may have (Zalman, 2011).

Conclusion The right to counsel role has guaranteed the effective assistance to criminal defendants. This role has provided options for the accused by giving them the opportunity to be represented not matter what their financial status may be, gives the right of silence so that they cannot incriminate themselves, and gives the chance of self-representation during their court proceedings.