Our Right to Legal Counsel

The cornerstones of our right to effective legal counsel:

The Declaration of Independence: Where it all began...

The Constitution: The foundation created to rebuild from scratch the British governing structures eliminated by the Declaration of Independence...

The Bill of Rights: The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution and the fountainhead of individual rights. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments deal directly with our rights in dealing with law enforcement agencies. Note that the "Articles" of the original document and the "Amendments" (into which Articles were transformed only after ratification by the states) are not the same; the first two "Articles" were: (a) ratified much later (Article 2) or (b) not at all (Article 1). Therefore, for example, the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments translate to the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth original Articles, respectively.

Some milestones along the road to individual rights as currently recognized in the U.S.:

Gideon v. Wainwright(U.S. Supreme Court Decision): Gideonheld that that anyone facing the potential for significant incarceration if convicted of a criminal charge has the right to a free lawyer should they not be able to hire one themselves.

Miranda v. Arizona(U.S. Supreme Court Decision): Mirandaheld that arresting officers had a duty to advise people who are suspected and involuntarily detained that they need not respond to questions designed to incriminate them.