The Bill of Rights: The Sixth Amendment

Providing your right to legal representation.



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The Bill of Rights has guaranteed our freedoms and rights for over 200 years. In this regular series, Dean Leonard Baynes with the University of Houston Law Center looks at how they relate to society today.

"If you've watched a crime drama or detective movie, you've heard a police officer tell a suspect that if he cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for him."

"The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution provides the right to counsel. In the 1930's case Powell v. Alabama, nine black youths known as the Scottsboro boys were not informed that they could hire lawyers. They had no access to counsel until shortly before trial which left little time to prepare an adequate defense. They appealed and the Supreme Court reversed their convictions finding that the right to retain and be represented by a lawyer is a fundamental right. This right was expanded to include free legal counsel in criminal cases to those who can't afford it."

"So the next time you hear your favorite television detective inform a suspect of his right to retain a lawyer, know that the words are not simply lines from a script."

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