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The Right to a Criminal Defense Attorney, Explained

July 29, 2015 | Written by Dan Margolis

The main body of the U.S. Constitution sets up the three branches of the federal government, but has relatively little to say about the rights of citizens. That is what makes the Bill of Rights so important. Today, we will discuss the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees those charged with a crime the assistance of an attorney.

The average person has little understanding of the law or criminal procedure, especially if he or she has never been accused of breaking the law before. Without the help of a defense attorney, a criminal defendant would stand little chance of receiving a fair trial. The result could well be a false conviction and unjust prison term.

Of course, suspects encounter the criminal justice system well before trial. The Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel begins as soon as you are arrested, which is why police must inform suspects of that right as part of the Miranda warning. Thus, we have the right to an attorney while being interrogated by police, as well as during trial and at sentencing.

Later on, the Supreme Court recognized that this right is so important, that it should not be reserved only for those who can afford a lawyer’s fees. Today, a defendant who cannot afford an attorney will be appointed a lawyer, who will be paid by the government.

Of course, our advice to anyone facing criminal charges is to get the best attorney they can afford. A knowledgeable attorney will find any holes in the prosecution’s case, challenge the evidence and police procedures, and fight for his or her client’s civil rights.

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