When you face an interrogation or criminal charges in New Jersey, being able to rely on counsel’s advice is of utmost importance. Everything you say has the potential to be used against you, and any mistakes you make when dealing with the police, prosecutors or the courts could potentially be irreversible. So, when do you have the right to an attorney as a criminal suspect or defendant in New Jersey?
Understanding the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel
The right to an attorney exists under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In relevant part, it states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to . . . have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” If you are under investigation, under arrest, or facing charges, you have the right to rely on the advice of counsel and to have your attorney speak on your behalf.
Most people know of the right to counsel as a result of the Miranda warning. If you have ever watched a TV show or movie and heard, “You have the right to remain silent . . . .,” you are familiar with the Miranda warning. Under the U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona, the police are required to read your rights (including your right to an attorney) before conducting a custodial interrogation. This means that once you are taken into custody, the police cannot lawfully question you in connection with an alleged crime without first reading your rights.
However, even if the police do not read your rights, you still have them, and you have the right to rely on the advice of counsel in other circumstances as well. For example, you have the right to counsel during your arraignment, and you are entitled to have an attorney represent you at all subsequent stages of your New Jersey criminal case as well.
Understanding the “Right” to a Public Defender
One aspect that often gets confused about the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is the “right” to a public defender. In New Jersey, as in other states, you are not automatically entitled to free legal representation during your criminal case. To qualify for a public defender, you must:
- Be able to demonstrate that you are indigent (that you are unable to afford the cost of hiring a criminal defense attorney); and,
- Be at risk for facing jail time or another “consequence of magnitude,” which the New Jersey courts have defined as loss of driving privileges or a fine of $1,800 or greater.
Regardless of your case’s current status, and regardless of the penalties on the table, you owe it to yourself to speak with an attorney. For a free and confidential consultation, contact our firm today.
Request a Free Consultation with a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested or are currently facing criminal charges in New Jersey, it is important that you speak with an attorney about your legal defense as soon as possible. To discuss your case with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. in confidence, call 877-435-6371 or request a free consultation online now.