The Right to an Attorney

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The 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to an attorney if you have been arrested and about to be interrogated. This right assures that you have a fair trial.

Are the Police Required to Tell Me That I Have The Right to an Attorney?

If the police wish to interrogate you, they are required to read you your Miranda Rights.  As part of your Miranda warning, the police must tell you that you have the right to an attorney.

What Does the Right to an Attorney Mean?

The 6th amendment provides that you have the right to have an attorney present at critical stages after the commencement of adversarial criminal proceedings.  A critical stage includes any interrogationquestioning, line-up, physical examination, arraignment, or hearing.  Additionally, you have the right to be represented by legal counsel at trial.  

The right to an attorney is available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay for legal services.  The police are required to inform you that you have the right to an attorney, and that an attorney will be provided to you for free if you cannot afford one.  If you are unable to afford a private defense attorney, the court will appoint you a public defender.

What Services Can The Attorney Provide Me?

Although each case is different, the attorney will serve as your representative and legal translator. Your attorney can, among other duties and services:

If I Am Appointed A Public Defender, Can I Choose Which Attorney Represents Me?

Although you do have the right to be represented by the attorney of your choice, the practicality of scheduling conflicts and number of public defenders available limits this right. If, however, you are truly unable to work with the attorney given to you then you should petition the court for a new one.

What If I Want To Represent Myself?

You have the right to represent yourself, although it is advised that you retain an attorney to advise you in case of anything unexpected. In a few rare cases, the court may deny the right of self-representation if the judge deems the defendant mentally incompetent.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are arrested, ask for a lawyer!  It is your right to have one present.  Remain silent until your lawyer arrives.   If you can afford to pay for your own private attorney, or do not qualify financially for a public defender, you should start interviewing attorneys right away. 

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Last Modified: 06-21-2012 11:55 AM PDT

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