Criminal defendants in New York and around the country are guaranteed a number of very important rights by the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment gives suspects the right to remain silent and the Fourth Amendment limits the search and seizure power of the authorities, but perhaps the most important protections enjoyed by criminal defendants are provided by the Sixth Amendment. The Sixth Amendments guarantees the right to a fair trial and states that even indigent defendants have the right to adequate legal representation.
The Sixth Amendment provides the right to adequate representation rather than perfect representation, and defendants who feel that they did not receive a fair trial must establish that their attorneys made grievous errors. Judges hearing these appeals are generally deferential to defense attorneys, and appellants must prove that the mistakes made were so serious that they fundamentally undermined the judicial process and rendered any subsequent verdict unreliable.
In order for an appeal of a criminal conviction based on inadequate representation to be successful, appellants must prove that their attorney’s incompetent or negligent behavior prejudiced their defense to such an extent that they were denied a fair trial. Simply establishing that their attorney made mistakes is not enough to prevail in an appeal based on violations of the rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys may point out to their clients that the Constitution guarantees them the right to legal representation throughout the criminal justice process and not just during their trials, and they may seek to have criminal charges dismissed if their clients were denied access to an attorney at any point after being detained by law enforcement. Appeals may also be mounted in situations where law enforcement or prosecutors denied defense attorneys access to evidence that could exonerate their clients or implicate others.