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Know Your Rights

The Sixth Amendment Guarantees the Right to Legal Representation

In case of arrest, what rights do you have?

With the preponderance of reality television programs showing lawyers and the police at work, many people are confused about their rights when dealing with the police and the criminal justice system. The first thing to remember is that everyone has a constitutional right to "the assistance of counsel."

To help people understand what they can and cannot do during a police encounter, the American Civil Liberties Union has provided an easy-to-follow guide.

ACLU's "Pocket Card on Police Encounters," or "Bustcard," is available at

What are Miranda Rights?

Before law enforcement officers may question someone regarding the possible commission of a crime, they must read the Miranda Rights and make sure that the rights are understood. This is how Miranda Rights should be read:


  1. You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Do you understand?
  2. Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?
  3. You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. Do you understand?
  5. If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Do you understand?
  6. Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?
If detained by police, individuals can exercise their constitutional rights by stating that they do not wish to speak to officers or make a statement without an attorney present. By law, once this request is made, officers must cease questioning until counsel is available.

Links to More Information

Guide to California Courts

This guide explains criminal procedure in California, including how the process works, when formal charges can be brought against a defendant, trial procedures and sentencing.

Sixth Amendment Issues 3900BEB2-2599-4E9F-B5F09F0DF3E33C7B/subcatid/ 7BBA11EC-A686-4A81-8C6A1E017A20FE13

The Constitution guarantees representation by an attorney to those accused of a crime. This site offers several articles explaining the role of private and court-appointed attorneys in the criminal process. objectID/2F3AB06B-FB9D-40D7-9037492DDF5613BE

What is a private lawyer likely to cost? How can I get a court to appoint a lawyer for me? If I'm poor, will a judge appoint a public defender to represent me?'s "Getting a Lawyer" FAQ seeks to answer these and other questions.

This resource from FindLaw explores issues related to the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment, "Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions."

Prisoners' Rights

"Prisons and Prisoners' Rights: an Overview" is provided courtesy of Cornell University's Legal Information Institute.

"Indigent Defense Systems in the United States"

This treatise, written by Robert L. Spangenberg and Marea L. Beeman in conjunction with the Duke University School of Law, outlines Sixth Amendment rights and the range of interpretations and implementation in the United States.

Background on Miranda Rights

This technical briefing on the Miranda v. Arizona case of 1966 traces the progression of the groundbreaking case that led to the institution of the Miranda Rights.

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