Criminal Procedures

The Criminal Process

What is the right to counsel?

The “right to counsel” means that a criminal defendant who faces imprisonment is entitled to an attorney whether he or she can afford an attorney. This right is constitutionally based in the Sixth Amendment’s “assistance of counsel.” (See chapter two on the Bill of Rights, especially the Sixth Amendment.) The U.S. Supreme Court provided that this Sixth Amendment-based right was extended to state court defendants charged with felonies in the case Gideon v. Wainwright (1963; see LegalSpeak above). In that decision, Justice Hugo Black explained that attorneys in criminal cases were “necessities, not luxuries.”


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