What is Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in California?

March 28, 2023

In California, as in most other states, defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. This means that defendants have the right to a lawyer who is reasonably competent and who provides a level of representation that is not so deficient as to undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system.

When a defendant believes that their lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel, they can raise the issue in a motion for a new trial or on appeal. The standard for proving ineffective assistance of counsel is a high one, and defendants must typically show that their lawyer’s performance was both deficient and prejudicial. In other words, the lawyer’s performance must have been so poor that it fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and the defendant must have been harmed by it.

One of the most common forms of ineffective assistance of counsel is a failure to adequately investigate the case. This can include failing to interview potential witnesses, failing to review or gather evidence, or failing to consult with experts. When this type of deficient performance is found, courts may grant a new trial or overturn a conviction.

Another form of ineffective assistance of counsel is a failure to adequately prepare for trial. This can include failing to develop a trial strategy, failing to review or understand the evidence, or failing to prepare witnesses. When this type of deficient performance is found, courts may grant a new trial or overturn a conviction.

A third form of ineffective assistance of counsel is a failure to adequately represent a defendant during plea negotiations. This can include failing to communicate plea offers, failing to advise a defendant of the risks and benefits of pleading guilty, or coercing a defendant into pleading guilty. When this type of deficient performance is found, courts may vacate a guilty plea or grant a new trial.

A fourth form of ineffective assistance of counsel is a conflict of interest. This can occur when a lawyer represents multiple defendants with conflicting interests, or when a lawyer has a personal interest in the outcome of the case. When this type of deficient performance is found, courts may grant a new trial or overturn a conviction.

However, it’s important to note that proving ineffective assistance of counsel is not easy and even if a defendant can show that their lawyer’s performance was deficient, they must also show that the deficient performance prejudiced the outcome of their case. Additionally, even if ineffective assistance of counsel is proven, a new trial is not guaranteed. The court will consider the nature and extent of the deficient performance, as well as the potential impact on the outcome of the trial, in determining whether to grant a new trial.

Attorney John D. Rogers is an Orange County criminal defense attorney. He is a board-certified criminal law specialist by the State Bar of California. His office is located in Newport Beach, CA and he represents clients throughout Southern California in state and federal matters. If you’re seeking legal representation, give the Law Offices of John D. Rogers a call to schedule a free consultation.

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