Legal Representation for Criminal Defendants

The U.S. Constitution provides criminal defendants—rich and poor—with the right to effective assistance of counsel in their defense. This right is fundamental, because it impacts criminal defendants’ ability to assert other constitutional rights and obtain a fair trial. And, unlike civil litigants, criminal defendants face consequences that affect life and liberty, from pretrial incarceration to a life behind bars. A criminal conviction can come with additional consequence as well, such as immigration consequences, disqualification from employment, and sex offender registration—making sound counsel even more important in a criminal case. These articles review criminal defendants’ right to legal representation, including what that right means, when the right comes in to play, and what happens if you can’t afford legal representation.

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