Most people have heard that you have a constitutional right to have an attorney present to advocate for your interests while you are going through criminal proceedings. But do you know exactly when those rights kick in? Having an attorney present can make a world of difference when the police are interrogating you or when you are in a criminal deposition. It is important to know at what point you have the right to an attorney so that you don’t proceed without one and potentially put your case in jeopardy.
The Sixth Amendment
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants you the right to have the representation of an attorney whenever you appear in court. On top of that you can also invoke the right to have your attorney with you while the police are questioning you.
It is an excellent idea to avoid answering any questions that the police ask you after they take you into custody until your attorney arrives. Your attorney will be able to assist you in answering the questions in a way that will allow you to avoid incriminating yourself. In addition, attorneys are trained in identifying improper or illegal questioning methods and can keep you safe from police overreach.
Invoking the right
One thing that it is absolutely essential that all criminal defendants know is that this Sixth Amendment right is not automatic. In other words, you must invoke the right in order for it to take effect.
To invoke the right, you must make a clear and unambiguous statement such as “I want to speak to my lawyer now.” If you do this, the police must stop questioning you until your attorney arrives.
If you say something unclear or vague, such as “maybe I should have a lawyer here” or “I think I should probably talk to a lawyer,” then you have not properly invoked your right and the police are not obligated to stop questioning you.
It can be a very nerve-wracking experience to be in police custody. That’s why it’s important to know your rights – and how to invoke them – so that you will know what to do if you are ever in that situation.