In a criminal trial, the defendant has a constitutional right to “Adequate Legal Representation”. This means that their defense attorney will make a good faith effort to make a defense case in a zealous and enthusiastic manner.
It does not, however guarantee that the lawyer will do a perfect job, or even that they will win the case.It simply means that the lawyer’s representation will be enough to provide the defendant with a fair trial.

Thus, the criminal defendant not only has the right to an attorney, but also the right to receive adequate legal representation from that attorney. Failure to provide adequate legal representation is sometimes known as “ineffective assistance of counsel”.

What If the Legal Representation in a Case was Not Adequate?

“Inadequate legal representation” can have major consequences for a criminal proceeding. Basically, if the legal representation is not adequate, it may actually justify the court throwing out a verdict of guilty. This may require the case to be entirely retried.

However, courts strongly presume that a lawyer’s representation is adequate. In order to overcome this presumption, the defendant must show the following regarding their attorney:

  • The attorney’s performance was greatly deficient. The defendant must be able to point to an error or errors that are so major as to influence the outcome of the case; and
  • The attorney’s inadequate representation resulted in “unfair prejudice” to the defense. 
    • An example of this is where the attorney disregards specific instructions from the judge, causing the jury to become biased against the lawyer.

These rules may also apply to the appeal stages of a trial. Inadequate legal representation can also occur during an appeal or second appeal. Anytime inadequate legal representation occurs, the defendant may have to hire another lawyer who will assist with any outstanding legal issues. In severe cases, the defendant may bring civil charges against the first lawyer.

Can I Get an Adequate Representation from another Attorney?

If the previous attorney was ruled ineffective and you cannot afford another defense attorney yourself, the court will appoint a public defender. If you wish to represent yourself, who is your right although it is advised that you retain an attorney for advice in case anything unexpected occurs.

What are Some Examples of Inadequate Representation?

Some examples of inadequate representation are:

  • Failure to cross-examine any witnesses;
  • Failure to go against to harmful evidence or arguments/statements;
  • Failure to seek additional evidence;
  • Failure to file any appeals on time;
  • Failure to recognize conflict of interest; and/or
  • Failure to investigate the case as needed.

Can I Sue For Legal Malpractice?

Yes, inadequate representation of counsel can result in a civil suit for legal malpractice, especially if the ineffective assistance resulted in a wrongful conviction and a heavy sentence. If the ineffective assistance resulted in such an outcome, it is likely that the counsel was negligent in his or her duty to represent you.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Adequate Legal Representation Laws?

If you have experienced inadequate legal representation and incompetence by an attorney, you may have a claim for malpractice. If you have questions about an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, speak with an experienced criminal lawyer and get the representation you deserve.