Right to a Lawyer

The Capital

The Sixth Amendment states: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to have the assistance of counsel for his defense." Thus, the Bill of Rights guarantees legal counsel to anyone accused of a crime. That right has been extended to guarantee legal counsel, regardless of whether one can afford it or not. It has also been extended to the right to counsel during interrogation. The Court has ruled that an accused must be made aware of these rights. The right to be represented by an attorney is one of the Miranda rights, named after the 1966 Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona.


The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right "to have the assistance of counsel for ... defense." In Powell v. Alabama (1932), also known as the Scottsboro Case, the Supreme Court ruled that, in death penalty cases, the state was obliged to provide a lawyer for the defendant. In 1963, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Court held that anyone charged with a felony is entitled to counsel. The next year, the case of Escobedo v. Illinois came before the Court. Danny Escobedo had been convicted of murder. When he had been arrested, he repeatedly requested counsel, but was denied. The state then used his statements during interrogation against him. The conviction was overturned, and the court ruled that a suspect has a right to counsel during his interrogation.

In Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the Court ruled that a suspect had to be made aware of his or her rights before being questioned. When people speak of "reading you your rights," they are referring to the Miranda Rights. Under the Miranda ruling, police officers are required to say something like the following to anyone being arrested:
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you by the state. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?"