Your Right to an Attorney

Do I Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

You have the right to be represented by an attorney from the moment of your arrest through trial, sentencing and appeal. If you are under investigation for a crime, you are strongly advised to seek the assistance of legal counsel. If you cannot afford your own attorney, a public defender or other defense lawyer will be appointed to handle your case.

A criminal defense lawyer can:

  • Explain the federal criminal process
  • Explain the nature of the federal criminal charges you face
  • Discuss the potential penalties, including fines, prison time and immigration consequences of a conviction
  • Protect your constitutional rights throughout the process
  • Investigate the evidence and talk to any witnesses that may disprove your guilt
  • Negotiate a favorable outcome with the prosecution
  • Take your matter to trial before a jury of your peers

Here are some tips for choosing the right criminal defense lawyer.

Consult with federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts at 800-760-9071 or send an email. Read more about Patrick Roberts here. Patrick Roberts is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and consults with clients across the U.S.

How Do You Invoke Your Right To Counsel?

If you are under arrest, you should have been advised of your Miranda rights. Among these rights is the right to be represented by an attorney. To lawyer-up, all you need to do is request a lawyer. The request must clearly state that you want a lawyer; the police are not required to ask you if you want to call an attorney.

You do not have to wait until you are read your rights to request a defense attorney. The sooner your request is made, generally the better. If you are not allowed to speak with an attorney, you should reassert your request until you are given access to a defense lawyer.

Expert Tip: If you are required to participate in a line-up or show-up, you are entitled to have your lawyer present. Moore v. Illinois, 434 U.S. 200 (1977). In some cases, if a witness identifies a defendant at a pre-trial line-up conducted in violation of a defendant's right to counsel, the court can prevent the Government from calling that witness to identify the defendant at trial. United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218 (1967).

You do not have to be represented by a defense attorney. You also have the right to represent yourself, called proceeding pro se, in a criminal matter. However, a criminal defense lawyer on your side — even at the earliest stages of the federal investigatory process, if possible — can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case.