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What Is Ineffective Assistance of Counsel?

Dec. 19, 2016

You Have the Right to Be Represented by Effective Counsel

The 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that each person who is charged with a crime that could result in jail time of more than six months is entitled to the effective representation of an attorney. That does not always happen. In fact, ineffective assistance of counsel is perhaps the most often raised of the various grounds available on which to petition for habeas corpus relief. An effective attorney will work together with you to prepare a strong defense to the charges or negotiate a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor.

Effective Counsel Does Not Mean Successful Counsel

However, it is important to note that “effective” as defined by the courts, does not mean the same thing as “successful.” It is all too tempting to engage in “Monday-morning quarterbacking” when looking at the outcome of a trial and to argue with the clarity of hindsight that mistakes were made and that those mistakes constitute ineffective assistance on the part of the trial attorney. Knowing this, the courts have handed down a multitude of rulings designed to clarify and narrow the focus of the right to effective counsel as envisioned by the Sixth Amendment.

For more information on ineffective assistance of counsel, click here for our blogpost on the test to determine whether an attorney was effective..