You Have the Right to an AttorneyAuthor: Portner & Shure
Due to the popularity of criminal television shows and movies, we all know or have heard some variation of the Miranda rights - the warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody. It usually goes something along the lines of: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you." It is imperative for anyone facing criminal charges to understand what it is they are agreeing to.
Your right to an attorney is one of the most important provisions in the Miranda rights. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to legal counsel at all significant stages of a criminal proceeding. What exactly does that mean to the average person? It means you have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police, as well as to have an attorney present during questioning at the present or in the future. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning at your request. If you decide to answer any questions at the time, without an attorney present, you still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
Speaking to an attorney is not limited to circumstances where one is facing criminal charges. Even in situations such as an auto collision, it is very important to consult an attorney. In both situations, many people make the mistake of speaking to the police or insurance companies and signing documents because they feel as though they have nothing to hide. However, they often find themselves in situations where what they have said or signed is misconstrued or taken out of context. Attorneys have a better understanding of what information it is the police and insurance companies are trying to elicit through their questions. Furthermore, attorneys can provide you with advice and guide you through the necessary steps. They are trained to help you efficiently resolve the matter so that you can quickly move forward from what may be the most difficult and stressful time in your life.