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Ineffective Assistance of Counsel and Ways a Trial Lawyer Can be Ineffective 

Aug. 22, 2022

Your right to counsel embraces the right to receive effective assistance of counsel, as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington. The Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees effective counsel (and a fair trial) as a right.  

Ineffective assistance of a lawyer during your trial is a common claim for habeas corpus because it represents a chance to overturn a conviction and/or vacate a sentence. But a prerequisite to proving ineffective assistance, as the defendant, you must show: 

  • The lawyer’s performance failed to meet an "objective standard of reasonableness"; and 

  • The case's outcome would have been different if the lawyer had not committed unprofessional errors. 

The right to a competent lawyer goes beyond the criminal trial, and a successful criminal court process depends on adequate legal performance at nearly every stage, including: 

  • A plea bargain 

  • Presenting motions 

  • Direct appeal proceedings 

Five Ways That a Trial Lawyer Can Be Ineffective 

Based on the specific facts of your criminal case, the following are a few examples of situations where a court would consider an attorney's representation as inadequate: 

  1. Your lawyer did not hire an expert witness to counter the prosecution's expert testimony. 

  2. Your lawyer did not object to the prosecution using illegal or inadmissible evidence 

  3. Your lawyer failed to file a pre-trial motion, like a motion to suppress or motion in limine. 

  4. The lawyer advised you to plead guilty to a reduced criminal charge but failed to mention the plea might affect your immigration status leading to deportation.  

  5. Your lawyer has a social relationship with one of the victim's friends, resulting in a conflict of interest that made him less effective in defending you during your murder trial. 

What are the Remedies if the Attorney is Found to Be Ineffective? 

When a court deems counsel ineffective, it can pursue three remedies: 

  1. A defendant may request new defense counsel if a case is pending. If the court approves one, the new attorney may request a new trial, depending on the facts of the case. 

  2. If the defendant was found guilty at trial: 

  • A court may reverse a guilty verdict 

  • Request a new trial 

 3. When the court finds ineffectiveness during sentencing, it may order the: 

  • Sentence vacated 

  • Defendant resentenced 

Criminal cases are the only cases in which competent representation is guaranteed. Defendants in civil cases are not entitled to the right. 

Let's Us Help You with Your Post Conviction Case 

Call Bryan J. Jones, LLC to discuss your ineffective assistance of counsel claim. With our dedication to post conviction cases in Virginia, we can assist you if you have been unfairly charged or convicted. Contact us here. We will walk with you through the whole process. We will help you understand the charge and defenses and work together for trial or negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor.