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What may constitute an ineffective assistance of counsel?

When you are accused of a crime, there are certain rights that you are afforded. The sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides clear criteria for those rights. One of the guaranteed rights is that the accused have the right to the assistance of counsel in a case against them. The U.S. Supreme Court has gone a step further in this requirement and ruled that states must provide a public defender for those criminals who may be indignant and unable to retain their own lawyer.

Despite the fact that everyone has the right to a defense in a court of law, it is still possible that the lawyer chosen, whether privately hired or appointed as public defender, to represent a defendant may act in a way that is ineffective throughout the course of the case, which may alter the outcome of the case against the defendant. If a defendant chooses to appeal the ruling in his or her case due to the ineffectiveness of his lawyer, there is a way that the appeal on this basis must be proven.

Proving Ineffectiveness of Counsel

In order to show that counsel acted in an ineffective way, a defendant must prove two points, according to the rules set up by the Strickland vs. Washington case in 1984. The defendant must prove that the counsel's performance was deficient and the outcome of the trial and/or sentencing would be different if the counsel had not acted in a deficient way.

Examples of ineffective, or deficient assistance by a counsel include the following:

  • Not enlisting experts to challenge the prosecution's physical evidence.
  • Not investigating the prosecution's witnesses.
  • Failure to investigate alibi's or alibi witnesses.
  • Not conducting DNA testing.
  • Not reporting a conflict of interest.
  • Simply not staying awake or attending hearings.

It's important to note that if a defendant chooses to represent himself in a court, he is not entitled to claim ineffective assistance of counsel during his appeal.

Appealing a Conviction

If you feel as though your counsel was deficient in representing you, and the outcome of your trial would have been different if it were not for the actions of your counsel, it's important that you seek the advice of an experienced defense attorney who can help guide you through the reasons that you may claim ineffective assistance of counsel for your original trial in an appeal of your case.


C. (n.d.). Ineffective Assistance of Counsel. Retrieved May 23, 2017, from

Effective Assistance of Counsel. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from

(n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from

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