You Have The Right To An Attorney

Question: Please explain the phrase: "You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."

Answer: That means a person has a right to an attorney. If they request an attorney, all questioning has to stop until they have an attorney. That means that even if they can’t afford an attorney, they still have a right to have an attorney appointed before they’re asked any more questions. If a person’s going to invoke their right, they should do it and be quiet or, said another way, sit down and shut up. This is another area that—this is court made law; so they are not just automatically given to you, you have to invoke your rights. And you have to be unequivocal. If a person says, “I think I need an attorney,” the court very likely will phrase that as you did not actually invoke your rights. A person has to say, “I want an attorney. I will not talk until I have an attorney.” It has to be an unequivocal request for an attorney.

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