One of the greatest challenges facing the criminal justice system is the need to balance the rights of accused criminals against society’s interest in imposing punishments on those convicted of crimes. This tension is illustrated by the debate over whether defendants have the right to be represented by an attorney.
Most Americans are familiar with the Miranda warning, which advises suspects of their rights that are guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments: Criminal suspects have the right to refuse to answer questions from police; they have the right to an attorney; and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for them at no charge. However, the right to a court-appointed attorney is relatively new. The federal government started providing court-appointed attorneys for felony defendants in the nineteenth century, and some states began appointing lawyers for indigent felony defendants in the early twentieth century. But in 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an attorney must be provided to all criminal defendants in state and federal cases. The case that changed American jurisprud