Thursday, March 2, 2017

No Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel before Indictment

A defendant has no right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment before formal charges are levied against him or her, even when plea bargaining and other procedural actions are happening

Turner v. United States, 2017 BL 45346, 6th Cir., No. 15-6060, 2/15/17.

The Sixth Circuit ruled that a federal defendant does not have the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment until charges are officially levied against the defendant. The issue arose because a defendant was being charged by both the state and federal governments for crimes from the same incident. The defendant retained defense counsel for his state criminal proceedings, but was unable to have counsel appointed for the federal proceedings until he was  officially indicted. During the state proceedings and before a federal indictment, the state-appointed defense attorney gave the defendant advice that later proved detrimental to the defendant’s federal case. In the federal appeal based on the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the defendant argued that the state appointed counsel provided bad legal advice regarding a plea bargain before the defendant was indicted. The Sixth Circuit, however, rejected the appeal, finding that the right to counsel did not attach at the time of the bad advice, precluding the ineffective assistance of counsel claim brought in the appeal. Even though the federal prosecutors communicated with the defendant before his indictment, the defendant did not have a right to counsel.

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