Gary S. Dyer


Regardless of one's feelings about the desirability of the states providing counsel for a criminally accused indigent, there is no doubt that, at least in federal cases, the sixth amendment requires that, "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the right.., to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense." Some persons have felt that many of the questions surrounding the provision of legal assistance to the indigent accused were answered by the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright, but subsequent developments in both federal and state cases indicate that Gideon raised more problems than it solved. The questions raised concern the applicability of the sixth amendment guarantee, i.e., is it limited to federal prosecutions, to what offenses does it apply, and at what stages of a criminal prosecution is counsel required. These are questions which, historically, did not particularly concern the courts of this country, and only recently have the bench and bar become cognizant of such issues. However, in 1963, in Gideon, the United States Supreme Court made it dear that "[a]ny person hailed into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to be an obvious truth." This comment, in exploring the indigent's right to appointed counsel, will examine briefly the background of Gideon and the case itself, followed by a survey of subsequent developments and attempt to delineate those areas in which the law is dear as well as point out the troublesome areas still awaiting judicial articulation.

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