The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as Article I Section Six of the Minnesota Constitution, guarantees that every citizen who has been accused of a criminal offense will enjoy the right to the assistance of counsel. In plain language, this means that every individual who has charges brought against them by the State has the right to an attorney. This is quickly summarized by police when they read suspects their Miranda rights as they take them into custody.
However, despite this right, there is often undue pressure against requesting a lawyer for fear that the police may think you have something to hide. While it is the case that generally, officers would be much happier if you did not request a lawyer, that is because it makes you an easy target for manipulation and exploitation. Criminal defense attorneys are experts in their field and they know the exact type of tactics that officers will employ in order to confuse, badger, and wear down suspects into making incriminating statements. Therefore, it is imperative to remember a few key things regarding your right to an attorney.
If the police are subjecting you to an interrogation, they already suspect you have something to hide. They will undoubtedly act friendly, at first. But their ultimate goal is to solve a crime. Don’t be fooled, request a lawyer. You must make the request for an attorney clearly—something to the effect of, “I am asserting my right to an attorney”.
If the questioning does not stop, reassert your desire for an attorney. Once you have legal representation, your lawyer will take the appropriate steps to remedy any violation that the police have made and the attorney will be with you during any and all further questioning.
This right requires that the State must appoint you an attorney (public defender) if you are unable to pay for a private attorney. Whether your interests will be best serve by a private or public defense attorney depends on a variety of factors, but what matters at this point is that you have an attorney on your side.
It does not apply to civil proceedings. Sometimes, it may be unclear whether you have been charged with a criminal or civil offense. For instance, speeding is generally not a criminal offense, but rather, a civil infraction. To distinguish between the two types of offenses, the easiest way is to look at the possible penalty. If you only face monetary damages, it is a civil offense. Importantly, while you do not have the right to an attorney for civil cases, you may still hire a private attorney. You will not, however, be appointed one by the State.
Ultimately, if there is one takeaway to remember: request a lawyer. Even if you feel like the police might think you are guilty because your are requesting a lawyer, request a lawyer. Proceeding without one could be the difference between freedom and jail. If you have any more questions about your rights or you are in need of an attorney, call our office today.