I Need a Lawyer – When Can he be Present?

Assistance by counsel is a concept that a lot of people overlook. Over the years, numerous cases have been won by pro se defendants, but many more have been lost because of misplaced arrogance. When a person thinks he or she is the best person to represent them in court, it is almost always a poor decision. This inflated (and usually false) sense of wisdom can lead to disastrous results. We examine today the concept and importance of “the right to counsel.” If you have questions regarding your case, or are confused about your rights, don’t hesitate to consult your Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer.

The average person (and first year law student for that matter) probably thinks of “the right to counsel” as a right that only is applicable at a trial. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, the right to counsel applies to all “critical” stages of the prosecution. What does this mean? In its most basic sense, it usually pertains to the period after charges have been brought. To put it technically, the right to counsel attaches if the defendant would be prejudiced by having no attorney. (Coleman v. Alabama, 399 U.S. 1, 90 S. Ct. 1999). Don’t let the confusion of constitutional jurisprudence deter you from researching the law as it pertains to your case. You should always keep yourself up-to-date, whether you have a lawyer or not. If you choose to hire counsel or even meet with counsel for an initial consultation, see your trusted Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer.

“Pretrial proceedings” take place before trial, but are just as important as the trial itself. Many cases are won or lost at pretrial hearings and conferences. The reason is simple. Pretrial proceedings dictate the flow, roadmap, and evidence that may be admissible.

In Virginia, there is a rule that provides that in any case where an indigent (or poor) defendant is charged with a capital offense (punishable by the strictest penalties), the court must appoint an attorney from the Public Defender Commission. (See Va. Code 19.2-163.7). Defendants still have the right to select their own attorney if they have the means.

What should you know about Virginia’s treatment of this 6th Amendment right? First, the general rule is that when a criminal charge arises, the initial appearance before an officer of the court where the defendant learns of the charges initiates the right to counsel. (Rothgery v. Gillespie County, Tex., 128 S. Ct. 2578 (2008). Virginia, however, broadens this perspective by recognizing the right to counsel at all court appearances. (Va. Code 19.2-157).

If you have questions about your right to counsel, whether you qualify as an indigent, or questions about the facts and rules relating to your case, consult your top-notch Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer to ensure you don’t jeopardize your liberty.