I Got Bad Advice From My Criminal Lawyer. What Can I Do?
Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to an attorney, but does the Constitution mandate that the attorney be good? What if your attorney doesn't give you enough information, or gives you incorrect information? Or what if he or she is really bad at trial work?
Not every guilty verdict means the criminal defense attorney screwed up, but there are some cases where a lawyer's contribution to the defense (or lack thereof) is inadequate under the law. Here's what you can do about it:
Not only do you have a right to counsel, you have a right to "adequate representation." Inadequate representation is also referred to as ineffective assistance of counsel, and, in extreme cases, it can be grounds to appeal a criminal conviction or have a conviction vacated.
When courts assess whether you've received adequate representation, you will have to prove two things:
- That your lawyer's job performance was deficient -- You must show that your lawyer made errors so serious that he or she essentially did not function as counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment; and
- That the deficient performance unfairly prejudiced your defense -- You must show that your lawyer's errors were so serious as to wholly deprive you of a fair trial.
Get a New Attorney
Of course, an appeal can only occur after you've been convicted, and hopefully it won't have to come to that. There are signs you are receiving ineffective counsel, and you may be able to change attorneys before the damage is done.
You may be receiving inadequate representation if your lawyer fails to:
- Consult with you before making decisions
- File notices or other paperwork on time
- Behave professionally
- Respond to your requests for information or communication
- Use legal terminology or procedure correctly
In which case you may want to alert the court that you feel you are receiving ineffective assistance of counsel. If you think you've received bad advice from your lawyer, it may be time to consult with another criminal defense attorney about your case.
- Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory)
- The Appeal, Writ and Habeas Corpus Petition Process (FindLaw)
- Not Reading the Case File Is Ineffective Assistance (FindLaw's Ninth Circuit)
- DOJ: Guilty Pleas Won't Require Waiver for Bad Counsel Claims (FindLaw Blotter)
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