We cannot all be experts in the law. That said, if we get in trouble with the law (or are accused of it), we want someone who knows the law to represent us. Fortunately, the backbone of our legal system is each person's right to an attorney. This right is true regardless of whether you can afford one or not. Of course, it is always best to be able to choose who represents you in a court of law in New Jersey.
At the Law Offices of Alex Cirocco, our criminal defense lawyer represents clients who face criminal charges in New Jersey. We believe our clients make the best decisions for themselves when they are well-formed. So, here we explain what your right to an attorney means. Contact us at 973-327-9995 to schedule a free initial consultation and to make sure your rights are preserved as you go through the criminal justice system.
Charged with a Crime in New Jersey? You Have a Right to an Attorney
The right to have an attorney when you are accused of a crime is found in the Constitution's 6th Amendment. Specifically, it holds that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall…have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” This right does not apply in civil cases. For example, if you want to sue the police for excessive use of force, you can only do so if you hire an attorney, or, alternatively, you can file the paperwork yourself.
In short, when the charges you face have the potential to result in the loss of your freedom, you have the right to an attorney. It does not matter whether or not you actually receive jail time. If imprisonment is even a possibility, then you have the right to a lawyer.
You also have the right to hire an attorney of your choice. However, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. You are typically not able to choose your court-appointed attorney.
New Jersey Violations of a Right to a Criminal Defense
The right to criminal defense is fundamental, and when it is erroneously denied, a defendant is afforded recourse. Statements and evidence that are products of this violation are able to be excluded.
Why a Right to a Criminal Defense Attorney in New Jersey is Important
A criminal defendant is facing the possibility of losing their right to freedom. Because of this, a criminal defense attorney is essential to ensure the defendant has somebody that understands the legal system in their corner. A criminal defense attorney often has a positive influence on a client's case. They work hard to prevent their client from being wrongfully convicted or receiving excessive sentences for any crime they are found guilty of. They make certain the constitutional rights of their clients are upheld.
While the court is able to appoint an attorney to represent you if you are unable to afford one, it is almost always best to hire your own attorney whenever possible. A court-appointed attorney may not have the experience that your case requires, and even if they do, they often have a huge caseload which means your case may not receive the attention it needs. Also, as your attorney will be receiving very little, if any, pay for representing you, their time may be spent on more lucrative matters.
To What Standard is a Criminal Defense Attorney Held in New Jersey?
While the 6th amendment does not explicitly hold that a criminal defendant has “effective assistance of counsel,” this is how it has been interpreted by courts, and if a defendant does not receive it, he may be granted a new trial.
In Strickland v. Washington 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the court held that the proper standard for constitutional assistance of counsel is that the attorney must have provided reasonably effective assistance when considering all the circumstances. A convicted defendant has the burden of proving that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Furthermore, in order to obtain relief, such as another trial, a defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the proceeding would have been different.
Going through the criminal justice system can be overwhelming and frightening. At the Law Offices of Alex Cirocco we are here to assist and to make sure your rights and freedoms are protected. Contact us for a free initial consultation either online or by calling 973-327-9995.