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What is ineffective assistance of counsel?

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | Federal Appeals

Appealing a criminal conviction is notoriously difficult, and there are very few grounds to do so. However, one legitimate ground for criminal appeals is ineffective assistance of counsel.

Legal professionals are only human, and they are not immune from making mistakes. A mistake in itself is not necessarily ineffective assistance of counsel. The error made must amount to a mistake that no other competent attorney would have made at the time. 

Here are some examples: 

Inadequate preparation 

There is a lot at stake during a criminal trial. For the accused, the outcome could mean going to jail or not going to jail. Thus, a legal professional should be fully prepared before trial. This means conducting a thorough investigation of the case, deciding on a suitable defense strategy, interviewing witnesses and much more. 

If a legal professional is inadequately prepared for a case, this could amount to ineffective assistance of counsel should the accused be convicted. 

Failing to raise motions 

Before a criminal trial, legal representatives will have the opportunity to raise certain motions, including motions to suppress evidence. These should be raised when evidence is grossly inaccurate or prejudicial in nature. An example would be a hearsay statement that has the potential to influence a jury, but has no factual relevance to the case. 

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants all citizens the right to effective legal counsel. This includes before trials, during trials and afterward. The appeals process is tricky to navigate but if you feel that a prior representative was ineffective, then an appeal may be possible. Seeking further legal guidance will give you a better idea of where you stand.