The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Sixth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution guarantee a defendant in a criminal case the right to the effective assistance of counsel. The denial of this right could become the grounds for appealing a conviction.
The right to counsel begins once you have been formally charged with a crime. Proving that your attorney did not represent you effectively takes more than just showing that he or she made a mistake. Ineffective assistance of counsel requires that you must prove each of the following:
- Your attorney failed to perform at the objective standards expected of a member of the legal profession, and
- Were it not for your attorney’s poor showing, the outcome of the case or the sentence imposed would have been different.
Ineffective assistance of counsel appeals are not limited only to claims that the attorney did not perform well during the trial. Getting advice from your attorney to go to trial instead of accepting an offered plea bargain might be considered to be ineffective assistance.
Winning an appeal based on the ineffective assistance of counsel can be difficult. Examples of attorney conduct that caused appellate courts to rule in favor of the defendant include:
- An “attorney” who was not admitted to practice law
- The failure of defense counsel to investigate the defendant’s life history for evidence that might mitigate the contents of a presentence investigation report
- The failure of an attorney to conduct any form of pretrial investigation or conduct pretrial discovery
- Failing to challenge obvious bias on the part of at least two members of the jury panel
- Failing to raise obvious defenses such as double jeopardy or extreme emotional disturbance