If you are facing arrest or law enforcement interrogation, you may feel you have no other option than to cooperate. By doing so, you may think that you will protect yourself against an unfavorable outcome. Yet, talking with officers or investigators can put you at greater risk of incriminating yourself. Before speaking with officials, you will want to exercise your right to counsel.
The right to counsel
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees defendants the right to counsel. You can invoke this right at any time during criminal investigations or proceedings. Once an officer arrests you or an investigator interrogates you, you must declare that you would like to speak to an attorney. Making this statement protects you from further questioning. If officials continue questioning you before you speak with an attorney, you can invoke your right to silence as well.
What an attorney can do
The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the right to counsel as the guarantee of effective legal assistance. When you retain an attorney, they will uphold their duty to you by defending you from any charges you face. They will also defend you from any violations of your constitutional rights during legal proceedings. In addition, they will inform and explain your rights to you throughout your case.
Once you consult an attorney, they will evaluate the circumstances that could affect your case. Their knowledge of laws and statutes will help them advise you on how to respond to your charges or investigation. Since officials may use your words against you, your attorney will also know what you can and cannot say to them – and whether you should cooperate at all.
Invoking your right to counsel can protect you in the event you face criminal charges or investigation. By exercising it, you can improve your odds of a favorable outcome far more than you would by talking to law enforcement officials alone – without your legal advocate to support you.