Guest Blog: The Right to Counsel

By Paige Pippin*

Photo courtesy of immigrationimpact.com

Photo courtesy of immigrationimpact.com

We are all familiar with our right to have an attorney present when we are questioned by police. But do you know the process police must follow, or how to protect yourself?

The right to counsel is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Everyone has the right to an attorney in order to have a proper defense for cases where jail is a possible punishment. If an individual cannot afford an attorney, then one will be appointed. This does not, however, guarantee that the lawyer is necessarily the best lawyer.

When the police officially detain (when someone is not free to leave) and interrogate someone, the police must read them the rights outlined in Miranda v Arizona.  Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that s/he has the right to remain silent, that any statement made may be used as evidence against him/her, and that s/he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. The rights may be waived if done so voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently.

Police may question without reading these rights as long as the person is not in custody. At any time during the questioning, the suspect may ask for an attorney and all questioning must stop, even if the right was waived previously. Some people will confess because an interrogator may say they can “help out” the suspect and get them a lighter sentence. In reality, the police cannot promise how the judge and prosecution will determine the sentencing of an individual. Police can lie to you in order to get a confession, which is why an individual needs to have an attorney present to have guidance throughout the legal process.

Have questions about your right to counsel? Call us at 936-294-1717 or email us at slms@shsu.edu to set up and appointment with our attorney.

Paige Pippin is from Denton, Texas and is a Criminal Justice major with a minor in Legal Studies. She is in the Honors College, the Criminal Justice Fraternity Lambda Alpha Epsilon, and Crime Victims Service Alliance. She loves being active and her favorite thing to do is play volleyball. She absolutely loves it here in Huntsville and after she graduates in the summer, she plans on going to law school.  

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