Judicial Proceedings and Custodial Interrogation Overview
Generally, defendants are entitled to counsel from the time of their arraignment until the beginning of their trial. This is because the defendant's need for consultation, investigation, and preparation are critically important for a fair trial. The courts have gradually expanded this idea to the point that there is a legal concept of "a critical stage in a criminal proceeding" that indicates when a defendant must be represented by counsel. Below you will find more information about the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, when it attaches, and what happens if this right is violated. If you still have questions or need legal advice, see below for more information.
Defendants who have been taken into custody and have invoked their Sixth Amendment right to counsel with respect to the offense for which they are being prosecuted may not later waive that right. However, defendants may waive their right under Miranda not to be questioned about unrelated and uncharged offenses.
What the Police are Prohibited from Doing
The U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in on this matter in Michigan v. Jackson. Once this right attaches, the police are prohibited from purposefully eliciting incriminating information from a defendant in any matter in which he has been formally charged. Basically, the police are prohibited from further attempts to interrogate the defendant regarding the crime they are charged with.
When Does the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel Attach?
It is important to understand that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches only when someone is formally charged with a crime. This occurs when someone is either indicated or arraigned. To be clear, merely taking the arrested person to jail is not formal charging, even though the person may be informed of charges by the judicial official.
Violation of Right to Counsel
What happens if the police violate the right to counsel? The remedy for violation of the Sixth Amendment rule is that any statements obtained from defendants under these circumstances will be excluded from the evidence at trial. There is one important exception to the Sixth Amendment exclusionary rule: evidence obtained from defendants held in custody that violates the Sixth Amendment may be used for the sole purpose of impeaching the defendants' testimony at trial.
If you have additional questions or would like to conduct your own research on the laws in your state, check out of the links below. Remember, state laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Criminal laws aren't always particularly easy to understand, even for the most educated among us. While you can conduct your own research, it is always a good idea to speak with a criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction if you are charged with a crime -- especially if your situation involves custodial interrogation. Start now with a free case review at no obligation.