The Right to Counsel

551 words | 2 page(s)

In the United States, criminal justice is administered through a series of stages ranging from arrest as the first step to liberation as the final stage. Initially, the right to an attorney meant that individuals had the right to pay an attorney leaving out the poor from enjoying the privilege. In the 1930s, there was an expansion to the right of counsel for the poor defendants. In the landmark of the case Powell V. Alabama (1932), the Supreme Court argued that defendants had a right to have an attorney appointed by the court. Six years later the court provided an expansion to the right of the attorney who were appointed in courts for all federal cases.

In the case Johnston V. Zerbst in 1938, Johnson was victimized of assault in a trial I which he represented himself. The supreme court that the individuals who were unable to access the right of an attorney due to incompetency would receive such a right. In the United States, all individuals are equal before the law, and a person without a capacity cannot be assured of the fair hearing unless counsel is provided to him.

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Although both Powell V. Alabama and the case of Johnson V. Zerbst in the year 1938, expanded the right to counsel for the poor defendants, the privilege was not guaranteed to all individuals. In the case of Betts V. Brady 1942, the Supreme Court made a decision that the sates had to appoint an attorney for special cases such as when the defendant is incapacitated or mentally ill. In the year 1963, the Supreme Court considered a landmark and the most significant case as Gideon V. Wainwright in, which Gideon was charged of felony and forced to represent himself as he was not in a capacity to pay for an attorney (Almeida, 2013). Gideon requested for the court appointed attorney but was denied the privilege and imprisoned for five years. After the case reached to the Supreme Court, a decision was made that an assistance of an attorney was a fundamental right. In the implementation of the sixth amendment, the court directed the police that they should withhold any interrogation with a suspect if they say that they want a lawyer. In addition, the police must give a suspect a chance to consult with the attorney and to have the attorney present before any proceeding.

The Sixth amendment of the constitution guarantees legal privilege to counsel at all the stages of a court’s proceeding. The right is crucial as it is a guarantee of justice to the persons who are not in a position to hire a lawyer or for any other legal assistance (Meese, 2012). The government, therefore, appoints a person to give legal assistance to the defendant at no cost. In all criminal cases, the role of a defense attorney is of paramount significance, especially for the persons with a possibility of incarceration. According to Meese (2012), the key obligations of the hired attorney include guiding a defendant on his/her rights and giving an explanation to them on what to expect at different stages in the process of a criminal proceeding. In addition, the attorney ensures that the constitutional rights of the defendant are not violated in court. Furthermore, the attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with the government on behalf of the defendant.

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