The Sixth Amendment to the U.S Constitution guarantees that “the accused shall enjoy the right to… have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Article 11, section 16 of the Colorado Constitution, extends the right to counsel to those facing criminal prosecutions in Colorado state courts.
The right to counsel is one of the most important civil rights we have as Americans. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you challenge the government’s case by conducting a thorough investigation, meticulously analyzing the legal issues, providing clear and honest advice, and zealously advocating for your rights through every step of the criminal justice process.
The right to effective assistance of counsel
The right to counsel includes the right to the “effective assistance” of counsel. While there is no set definition of “effective assistance” from a criminal defense attorney, the courts have held that an attorney’s performance of their obligations to their client must be objectively reasonable given the totality of circumstances.
The right to counsel begins before charges are filed
The Sixth Amendment right to counsel begins during the investigation of a criminal case and is closely linked at that stage to the Fifth Amendment right not to be compelled by law enforcement agents to make incriminating statements (the “right to remain silent”). You do not have to be formally “arrested” to have the right to counsel. Any custodial police questioning triggers the right to counsel and the police must advise you of that right.
There is also no obligation to meet with or speak to the police when they are investigating a crime, and the decision whether to do so should only be made after consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Do not be fooled by a police officer politely assuring you that things will “go better” if you just have a talk with them.