You Have the Right to an Attorney
You have the right to an attorney during any police questioning, and you should always exercise that right. The right to counsel really has two components, with its origins in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution and concomitant provisions in the Georgia Constitution. If your right to counsel has in any way been violated, or if you have merely been contacted by a law enforcement officer asking you to speak to them, consult immediately with a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney.
The Fifth Amendment Right
Under the seminal case of Miranda v. Arizona, a defendant who has been arrested must be advised of certain rights prior to any police questioning. One of these rights is the right to counsel during such questioning. If the defendant is not advised of this right, or if the defendant's invocation of this right is disregarded, the defendant's statements should be suppressed.
Many cases involve an analysis of whether or not the defendant unequivocally, or unambiguously, invoked his or her right to counsel. If the invocation is equivocal, the police can ignore it and continue asking questions. If the invocation is unequivocal, all questioning must immediately cease.
Just like every other area of the law, there are exceptions to these rules. One is when the defendant himself initiates subsequent questioning after invoking his right(s). If this occurs, his subsequent statements are admissible. Another exception relates to the standard booking questions asked of arrestees when being processed into the jail.
The Sixth Amendment Right
The right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment provides that a criminal defendant is entitled to the effective assistance of counsel during any and all "critical stages" of the prosecution. Generally, a critical stage is one where the defendant would or could require the advice of counsel in order to ensure their due process rights are honored. In Georgia, these include arraignment, pretrial matters, trial, sentencing, motion for new trial and direct appeal. Unfortunately, defendants are not entitled to counsel in post-conviction proceedings.
A defendant is entitled to counsel during a trial. If he or she can afford a lawyer, they may choose whatever counsel they wish. If they cannot afford a lawyer, they are still entitled to counsel, but generally cannot pick who their appointed lawyer will be. Under the Georgia Constitution, Georgia residents very clearly also have an absolute right to represent themselves. Most lawyers will tell you, however, that this is a very risky proposition. A commonly-invoked saying on this subject goes "he who represents himself has a fool for a client." This is a quote from President Abraham Lincoln, so the perils of self-representation have been known for some time.
Any time someone has been accused of a crime, it is never too early to get a lawyer involved in the process. A Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer with the experience of someone like Ben will make sure that you are protected at the earliest stages. Too often people don't take seriously the legal situations they find themselves in, and this can lead to drastic consequences. Don't wait until it's too late -- contact Ben immediately.