It is very important to understand your rights and what each amendment means so that you can protect yourself against law enforcement officer acting illegally. The sixth and fourteenth amendments provide information regarding your rights in a criminal trial. The Sixth Amendment states “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” Whereas the Fourteenth amendment states “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law….” The sixth amendment guarantees the defendant an attorney to represent them during their trial. It also ensures that if the defendant is unable to afford an attorney then the defendant is provided with one at no cost. The defendant also has the right to hire an attorney at every point of the case, not just during the trial. Many requests for an attorney and remain quiet when police question them.

Gideon v. Wainwright is a 1963 Supreme Court case that challenged the government, by stating that everyone has the right to representation before and during their criminal trial.

Gideon had been arrested by police after he was found near a crime scene. He was charged with the crime of breaking and entering, and with intent to commit theft. Gideon was unable to afford a lawyer, so begged the court in Florida to name him. He said that it was his sixth amendment right and that he had the right to counsel as does anyone. He was denied counsel since only appointment of counsel for capital offense was required at the time in Florida state law. He was convicted and sent to jail for five years because he was forced to defend himself and serve as his own attorney because the state refused him a lawyer.

Gideon filed a habeas corpus petition after he was convicted, claiming he had been wrongly sentenced. Habeas corpus is defined as “the right to due process of the law and to know why one is being held in prison.” Gideon said he’d been denied habeas corpus, due process, and counsel. Gideon, who had little experience with the law, was asked to defend himself in court, which finally led to his arrest. Gideon began another lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court agreed to look into the case. Gideon argued that the Sixth Amendment rights should be applicable for defendants in state courts.  The Supreme Court had to decide whether or not the sixth amendment provided a fundamental right, and if the right of counsel should be paid for by the government in state level criminal cases.

Imagine yourself having to go to court and collect evidence, create an opening and closing statement knowing your fate was entirely in your hands. You didn’t have an experienced criminal lawyer to help guide you and prepare you for your upcoming court date. The criminal justice system draws in many people from different walks of life. However, those who are from lower-socio-economic lifestyles are at a disadvantage due to lack of resources, lack of homes, food, and more. Everyone in the United States deserves someone who can defend them and this is why Gideon v Wainwright was so crucial.

Having an attorney is crucial in a trial. An attorney will assist the defendant in many different things. They will advise and explain their rights and walk them through the many steps of the criminal process. Some citizens do not know all their rights and the details of the law. That is why it is so important that every defendant have access to an attorney. It prevents defendants from having their constitutional rights violated by law enforcement. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help the defendant negotiate if that is their goal. Having an attorney can extremely help a defendant negotiate a plea bargain.