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On March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court decided Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (U.S. 1963), holding that the 6th Amendment’s guarantee of counsel was a fundamental right essential to a fair trial.
Justice Hugo Black, who delivered the Gideon opinion, said:
[I]n our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. ... The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours.
In honor of Gideon’s 54th anniversary, here’s a list of articles and insights that expand upon the right to counsel and legal representation.
Gideon v. Wainright ruled that every American accused of a crime is entitled to an attorney, However, this doesn’t ensure equal justice. Ensuring equal justice will take a movement. Jonathan Rapping is building that movement.
Before the Internet, finding a criminal defense attorney was an endeavor that required a lot of time. People had to thumb through the yellow pages in the phone book, or ask friends, family, or colleagues for a referral.
As a public defender handling Class 1 felonies (the most serious crimes), many of these clients plead guilty 90 percent of the time due to their economic circumstances. Travis chose to be a public defender so he could give the poor the right to a “level of legal representation that is on par or superior to a paid attorney.”
Rather than conducting a catchall Internet search on lawyers in your area, a good starting point would be to know what databases contain information about particular attorneys in your area.
Out of 486 responses from the Southern region of the U.S., 16% – the largest percentage – of Southerners preferred to find their attorneys through friend referrals rather than search on the Internet.
Many people panic when facing criminal charges, and simply retain whatever attorney who may have helped a friend get out of a traffic violation once. However, this can be a grave mistake if the lawyer is unfamiliar with how to handle your charges. Outstanding criminal defense lawyers are not out of reach, and can be found by following the below recommendations.
An alternative and more prevalent reason that could explain the survey finding is that most low-income individuals cannot afford an attorney in many legal situations and thus turn to the Internet to assess their options for free legal services.