FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 78 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2009 Pages: 23-31
This article provides an overview of the sixth amendment right to counsel.
Because confessions are such powerful evidence, defense attorneys will aggressively challenge their admissibility through a variety of legal avenues. The sixth amendment right to counsel is just one of several constitutional protections afforded to individuals when dealing with police and prosecutors in criminal matters. As described, this right attaches once the government commits itself to prosecuting an individual and it affords an accused the right to counsel at all critical stages of the prosecution relating to the charged offense. Once the right has attached, police must advise the individual of this right and obtain a lawful waiver prior to eliciting information about the charged criminal activity from the subject. If the sixth amendment right to counsel is invoked, police may not initiate any activity considered to be a critical stage with the individual for the charged offense unless that person’s attorney is present. Law enforcement officers must understand the nature and scope of this sixth amendment right to counsel and recognize that it is a different protection for the right to counsel afforded under the fifth amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination. Once understood, law enforcement officers will be better equipped to deal with this challenge to the admissibility of a confession and avoid sixth amendment suppression. 65 endnotes
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