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Understanding the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2018 | Criminal Law

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees, among other things, the right to have the assistance of counsel in the defense of criminal cases. The Fifth Amendment provides people with the right to be free from self-incrimination. The right to an attorney and the right to be free from self-incrimination are rights guaranteed in both the United States and New York Constitutions. These rights are also discussed in one of the most famous criminal cases to come out of the United States Supreme Court.

In Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5 – 4 decision, held that criminal suspects are entitled to certain procedural safeguards before and during custodial interrogations. In that case, the familiar Miranda warning was born. Most of us can recite it almost by heart, having seen it countless times on television and in the movies.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney present with you during questioning if you wish. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. At any time, you can invoke these rights.


Generally speaking, the police must give you your Miranda warning when you are in custody and about to be subject to interrogation. Consequently, if you are arrested but not questioned, the police might not give you your Miranda warning. Additionally, if you are questioned, but free to leave, the police might not give you your Miranda warning

This is not to say you are not entitled to an attorney. Instead, it just means law enforcement doesn’t have to specifically tell you your Miranda warning about your rights before interrogation. Some people who are arrested and never given a Miranda warning sometimes think that because the police never gave them their warning, the police made a mistake and their case should be thrown out. However, the lack of a warning does not necessarily mean that the police made a mistake.


When law enforcement is investigating a crime, it is not uncommon to contact a suspect and ask if they will come down to the station to speak. It is often presented as an opportunity to “tell your side of the story,” or “clear your name.” Sometimes, suspects are told, “this is your only chance to let the judge know you are a stand-up guy who takes responsibility for his actions.”

It is important to remember, law enforcement is interested in closing cases and getting convictions. They are not interested in making sure you get to tell “your side of the story,” unless your side of the story involves a confession that makes their job easier.

You should always have an attorney with you when law enforcement wants to speak with you, even if you know you didn’t commit any crime at all. An attorney will be best able to protect your interests and advise you. Your criminal defense attorney also understands what kinds of tricks and tactics the police use to try and get you to say something that could hurt your case. Never, ever talk to the police without an attorney with you!


If you are charged with a crime, or if you are being investigated for a crime, you need an experienced, accomplished criminal law attorney on your side. Contact Frost & Kavanaugh, attorneys at law, to talk about your situation before you speak with law enforcement. Let us put our experience with law enforcement and the criminal justice system to work for you! At Frost & Kavanaugh, we know that the police don’t always contact you from 9:00-5:00, which is why we’re always available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.