Those Accused of a Crime Have a Constitutional Right to an Attorney – But There Are Steps to Take

Those Accused of a Crime Have a Constitutional Right to an Attorney – But There Are Steps to TakeSuspects and defendants in criminal prosecutions have the right to an attorney under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as the California constitution, during various phases of the criminal process. These rights are essential for people’ protection from unjust and abusive police practices, as well as for ensuring that justice is served.

That said, a person is not simply presented with an attorney when they are arrested or taken in for questioning. It is important for citizens to know how they request an attorney and what to do while they wait for their attorney to appear. Keep reading for the facts and contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 right away if you are in need of a criminal defense attorney.

Your rights under the Fifth Amendment

If a suspect in a criminal inquiry is in police custody and being interrogated, he or she has the right to an attorney under the Fifth Amendment. Many court disputes have been fought over what it means to be “under police custody” or “interrogated.” A person might be detained by the police while in the station, in the back of a police cruiser, on a street corner, or even in their own house.

In most circumstances, the essential is that he or she does not feel free to depart due to police activities. For example, if a police officer stops a person on the street suspected of breaking into a business and removes his or her identification, that individual is not free to go because a reasonable person would not feel free to leave while the police possessed his or her license.

He or she would be regarded “in police custody” and have the right to a counsel in such scenario. What defines an interrogation is typically less ambiguous, with police questioning a suspect being a clear example. Other sorts of interrogation, such as an officer making remarks intended to elicit a response, even if it isn’t strictly a question, may exist.

In a missing child case, for example, an officer saying aloud to another officer, “I bet if that child were found today, the parents would be so delighted they wouldn’t even pursue charges,” may be viewed as interrogation because it was a comment intended to elicit a reaction from the suspect. If the suspect was also in detention, he or she would be entitled to representation.

Your rights under the Sixth Amendment

A defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel begins whenever official criminal procedures, such as a preliminary hearing, an indictment, or an arraignment, have commenced. A defendant in a criminal case has the right to representation from an attorney at all important phases of the process.

Making sure you ask for an attorney clearly and absolutely is one of the most important components of your right to an attorney. In a number of situations, courts have concluded that a suspect’s right to counsel does not apply because he did not formally request one.

In fact, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that a defendant who requested a “lawyer, dawg” may have been requesting a “lawyer dog” (a dog who is also a lawyer), and so his constitutional rights were not infringed when the police did not comply. If you’re being interrogated by the authorities, make careful to say “I want a lawyer” as plainly as possible.

Chambers Law Firm defends clients in a range of situations throughout Southern California, and we know how to protect our clients against unjust police actions. Our team of criminal defense attorneys and specialists will work with you to get the best possible result in your case. To book a free first consultation, call 714-760-4088 or email

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