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Assistance of Counsel in a Criminal Appeal

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What Does Assistance of Counsel Mean?

In any criminal case, the rights of criminal defendants include the right to have a lawyer represent them during the trial.  This is known as the 6th Amendment right to counsel, and is different from the pre-trial right to an attorney that originates from the Miranda rights.

The right to assistance of counsel often goes by other names, such as the right to effective assistance of counsel, or the right to adequate representation.  This means that the defendant has not only the right to an attorney, but also that the attorney must represent them to the best of their capabilities and in a manner that makes the trial fair for the defendant. 

Is Assistance of Counsel Available for a Criminal Appeal?

Previously, courts were split as to whether a criminal defendant has the right to assistance of counsel during an appeal as they do in earlier stages such as preliminary hearings and trial.  However, more recent Supreme Court rulings have also extended the right to assistance of counsel to include post-conviction stages, specifically, the first appeal.

Thus, if the defendant is entitled to an appeal, the state also has a duty to appoint an attorney if the defendant can’t afford one.  In many cases, the defendant may choose to hire their own private attorney, but the law allows them to be represented by a state-appointed attorney if they so desire.

What About a Second Appeal?

On the other hand, the right to assistance of counsel doesn’t extend as far a second appeal.  In other words, if a second appeal is granted, the defendant needs to find their own attorney, as the state will no longer provide an attorney for them.  Specific details of these rights may vary according to state, however.  While second or third appeals are relatively rare, they do occur, in which case the defendant should be prepared if they wish to pursue an appeal.

Thus, many defendants will hire their own attorney once they decide to appeal.  This is due to the possibility that a second appeal may be necessary.  If that happens, their attorney can continue to represent them effectively, as they will be well-familiarized with the case material.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance of Counsel in a Criminal Appeal?

Criminal appeals are an important part of the U.S. legal system.  While they aren’t granted in every criminal case, appeals may be necessary depending on the specific circumstances.  If you need assistance with a criminal trial or a criminal appeal, you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately.  Your attorney can advise you of your legal options, and will be able to represent you during formal court proceedings. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-20-2015 01:16 PM PDT

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