Criminal Law

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What is Legal Right to Counsel?

Legal Right to Counsel is defined as the legal responsibility of the government to provide every defendant of a legal action with effective legal representation.This right begins the minute they are arrested and continues through until the need for counsel has ended.

Why is the government required to provide me with Legal Counsel?  

The Sixth Amendment to the Unites States Constitution provides effective legal representation to anyone accused in any criminal prosecution, regardless of their ability to pay for legal services, while reserving their right to retain their own private legal counsel. In the event of non-affordability, the court will appoint an attorney from a Public Defender’s Office to represent the case.

When do I become eligible for legal representation while being questioned?

There are certain requirements for a person to be eligible for legal representation. You must be:

  • detained by a law enforcement entity, AND
  • that entity must be asking you quilt seeking questions

            If you do not meet both of the above qualifications, you may have an attorney present but it may be at your own personal cost. Anytime you are defending yourself against criminal charges, when facing a charge that is either a felony or misdemeanor and carries a sentence of imprisonment, you may be appointed effective legal counsel based on these and several other factors.

What additional factors may determine appointed legal counsel?

Several factors may allow you to be appointed legal counsel when facing criminal charges by the court. Some of these are as follows:

  • mental illness
  • developmental disability
  • age- juvenile delinquency proceedings
  • indigence
  • some cases involving child custody or protection

Can I represent myself in court without an attorney?

 In most cases many courts will allow you to represent yourself in criminal proceedings but will also require or appoint a Bar certified attorney to aid you.

. You're granted the opportunity to represent yourself in court, provided you;

  • Know the basic rules of the court
  • Are in civil litigation; or in criminal proceedings
  • You are mentally competent to aid in your own defense
  • You understand the charges you are facing

In what case could I be denied legal counsel?

 Although the Sixth Amendment guarantees you the right to legal counsel, it does not guarantee the right to free legal counsel. In many instances, if you do not qualify for any of the reasons listed above, you may be allowed legal counsel but at your own expense.  This is an important distinction for anyone facing criminal or civil litigation, as most attorney’s bill by the hour. In many cases, you must prove your financial indigence or inability to afford to pay for legal representation before the court will appoint a defender to your case. 

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