The American judicial system is complex. In fact, most U.S. lawyers go to school for at least seven years to become proficient in the law. If you face criminal charges, though, you must think about the quality of your legal representation. 

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives criminal defendants the right to legal representation during virtually all parts of the criminal process. If you cannot pay for a lawyer, the government covers many legal fees for you. Before you hire an attorney or ask a judge to appoint one for you, you should know a few things about ineffective assistance of counsel. 

When lawyers make mistakes 

All licensed lawyers must be competent. According to the Rules of Professional Responsibility, competency requires attorneys to have a fundamental understanding of the law. They also must act diligently and thoroughly to represent their clients. Like all human beings, though, lawyers occasionally make mistakes. 

Questions about the effectiveness of a criminal defendant’s lawyer often arise during post-conviction appeals. Still, for a successful ineffective assistance of legal counsel claim, you must show your attorney’s errors or omissions resulted in your receiving an unfair trial. Because judges like finality in legal matters, convincing one to overturn a conviction usually requires significant work. 

How you benefit from effective legal representation 

If you face criminal charges, your wealth, liberty and personal happiness may be on the line. To increase your chances of achieving a favorable outcome, you likely want to work with an effective attorney. Waiting to hire one, though, may be a big mistake. That is, individuals often incriminate themselves early in criminal investigations. As such, you may choose to exercise your right to legal counsel and your right to remain silent at the same time. 

Reaching a successful conclusion to any criminal matter without professional assistance is difficult. If prosecutors have charged you with a crime, you likely need some help both understanding and navigating the U.S. legal system.