The Right to Counsel in Utah Criminal Cases

Right to a criminal attorney in Utah

In 1942, a case hit the United State's Supreme Court on whether or not denying an individual an attorney for a felony in state court violated the 14th and 6th amendment. The Supreme Court at that time found that it did not violate the constitution. That issue was looked at again under the case of Gideon v. Wainright.

In that case, the Supreme Court found that a right to a fair trial could only happen if a person had appointed counsel. This case is so famous because it institutionalized public defender work. Before that, most individuals who could not afford an attorney would go through a trial or the criminal process representing themselves.

Later, in Scott v. Illinois, the Supreme Court answered the question on when an individual should receive a public defender with the crimes they are charged with. The Supreme Court came out and said that if a person is facing a crime that requires jail-time, then they are entitled to a public defender.

In another case, the courts found that if a client did not want the help of counsel, they could waive their right to appointed counsel and represent themselves. However, the court has to make a finding that the waiver is made knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently. In some federal courts a person cannot waive their right to counsel without the prosecutor being present.

The courts also found that an individual has a right to appointed counsel on a direct appeal but not on a discretionary appeal.

The main issue in Utah today is whether or not a person has access to their constitutional guarantee under the federal constitution. It says that everyone facing jail-time is entitled to a public defender, however, there are many individuals who are working a minimum-wage job but do not qualify.

Or there are courts that will appoint a public defender, but the court orders them to pay a public defender fee at the end. The bottom-line is most people in Utah who are facing jail-time go through the criminal justice system without an attorney representing them. Make sure you talk to an attorney before entering a deal with the prosecutor to know your rights if you are self-represented.

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