The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that people charged with federal crimes will have the right to legal counsel for their defense. In the 1961 case of Hamilton v. Alabama, the Supreme Court extended that right to apply to state criminal proceedings, too.
But your rights in criminal cases go beyond simply telling you that you are able to have a lawyer represent you. In fact, over the years legal precedents have established that you have multiple rights concerning legal representation when accused of a crime:
- You can have a lawyer at any point in the criminal justice process, beginning with when the police detain you or question you.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, you will be provided one without charge.
- If you do not trust or get along with your court-appointed lawyer, you may hire any attorney who is willing to represent you and who is recognized to practice law in that jurisdiction.
- You are guaranteed the right of access to adequate legal advice. That means your attorney must be competent at his job and free from conflicts of interest in representing you.
- You can, if you wish, waive your right to legal representation and handle your own criminal defense. This is widely regarded as a terribly unwise and risky move.
The perils from inadequate legal counsel in North Carolina
As you can imagine, the quality of the legal advice you receive can mean the difference between a conviction and an acquittal. That is, in a nutshell, why representing yourself in court is an enormous danger to your interests. Such a pro se (Latin for “on one’s own behalf”) defense requires that you waive your right to competent legal advice, which means any mistakes you may make will not be grounds for an appeal after you have been convicted.
A public defender—appointed to your case if you cannot or don’t want to pay for your choice of attorneys—is a wiser choice than defending yourself, despite occasional stories of grossly incompetent public defenders in other states who fall asleep during trials or don’t even meet with their clients before trial.
The North Carolina justice system performs better than that. However, it has to be acknowledged that many public defenders have large case loads, and they may not be able to spend all the time you want focusing on your case. Public defenders’ offices tend to be under-funded and overburdened. These attorneys, skilled though they are, generally expect to settle a criminal case with a plea bargain, rather than pursue a case through trial. Their conferences with clients tend to be brief.
Hire Speaks Law Firm if you want a complete defense package
If you were planning to plead guilty to the original charges, or if you will be happy with any plea deal a public defender can get you, then there is no need for you to hire a defense lawyer with your own money.
If you want criminal defense representation in North Carolina that can follow you from your first police interview to the courtroom, call 877-593-4233 today to connect with Speaks Law Firm. Although based in Wilmington, we represent clients from all over eastern North Carolina facing state or federal felony charges.
We believe that a key component of a strong defense is communication between client and attorney. We will make sure you understand the legal arguments made and the options you have available, and we will make time to answer your questions thoroughly. When you hire us, you will be convinced that you’re our most important client.
You are entitled to adequate criminal defense representation as a fundamental right. Call us today and we can get started using that right to get you the best possible outcome for your North Carolina criminal case.