What are the Miranda Rights? The Right to an Attorney
“…. You have the right to an attorney….” The Miranda Warning
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right… to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The second Miranda Right is the right to an attorney. Under the Sixth Amendment, every person accused of a crime has the right to assistance of counsel. This right, recognized to apply to the states since 1963, is fundamental to a fair legal system because of how complex and difficult to navigate the legal system is. Defendants have a right to counsel in all felonies and many serious misdemeanors.
The American Justice System is often complicated, sometimes formalistic, and usually labyrinthian, and most defendants struggle to navigate it adequately. Defendants who take on the legal system alone are likely to find themselves overwhelmed and taking serious risks with their future. As soon as possible upon being arrested, defendants should seek to exercise their right to counsel, requesting to speak with their lawyer or requesting that they be appointed one before answering any questions from police. Defendants have no obligation to speak to police (remember, defendants have the right to remain silent), without their attorney present after they have been arrested.
The assistance of counsel can be vital to preserving evidence, preventing misunderstandings, and demonstrating reasonable doubt the jury needs to find the defendant innocent. An attorney can ensure that you don’t make statements that could harm your case or cause confusion. Legal charges can also be a highly emotional time and having an attorney with a calm mind can ease the stress in the process. Attorneys can also bring the sort of neutral, outside perspective that is so vital to legal practice. Nearly every attorney hires an attorney to represent them, as well.
Many people are worried that hiring or requesting a lawyer will make them seem guilty, which can lead them to attempt to navigate the complex legal process on their own. Every defendant has a right to an attorney and hiring an attorney cannot be used in court to suggest the defendant is guilty. Every defendant should strongly consider exercising their right to assistance of counsel.