STATES MUST PROVIDE LEGAL COUNSEL FOR FINANCIALLY CHALLENGED CRIMINAL DEFENDANTS
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-three years ago today, March 18, 1963, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright.
The Court ruled that states are required to provide legal counsel to criminal defendants who are unable to pay for their own defense.
Clarence Earl Gideon had been charged with breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor, but did not have the funds to retain an attorney. Mr. Gideon asked the court to appoint counsel for him, but the request was denied.
Mr. Gideon apparently had no alternative but to serve as his own attorney. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. The case was then appealed but the Florida Supreme Court denied his petition. It was then taken to the highest court in the land.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that under the Fourteenth Amendment* the states are required to provide counsel in criminal cases to represent defendants who cannot afford an attorney.
We all are familiar with, even if we have never been arrested, the so-called Miranda Rights read by police officers when they make an arrest. They say...
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can & will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."
According to MirandaRights.org/, an arrested person must be "unequivocal" in their response to the Miranda statement. "A person has to say, 'I want an attorney. I will not talk until I have an attorney."'
"Fourteenth Amendment," Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School, www.law.cornell.edu/
"What Are Your Miranda Rights?," MirandaWarning.org/