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You Have a Right to an Attorney During These “Critical Stages” of the Process






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Aug 29, 2016

You Have a Right to an Attorney During These “Critical Stages” of the Process

If you ever get charged with a crime, the Fifth Amendment guarantees your right to have an attorney represent and protect you in court. However, this right is not unlimited – it does not mean that your attorney has to be at your side at all times. Instead, there are certain “critical stages” in the criminal procedure that cannot be done without your criminal defense attorney present. Here are those “critical stages.”

Post-Indictment Lineups

Once you’ve been indicted for a crime, if police want to bring a witness in to identify you out of a lineup of potential suspects, then you have a right to an attorney. Having your attorney with you at this point is meant to ensure that the lineup is done properly, and that the witness is not pressured into identifying you in the lineup.

Notice that this only includes lineups that happen after an indictment. In the immediate aftermath of a crime, lineups are often conducted hastily so police can make an arrest. In these pre-indictment lineups, you don’t have a right to your attorney.


The arraignment is your initial court appearance, where you state whether you intend to plead guilty or not guilty. Because it involves such a critical decision in your defense, you’re entitled to have your attorney there with you as you make this decision.

Preliminary Hearings

Between your arraignment and your trial, there will be a series of hearings that you’ll have with the prosecution. These hearings are absolutely crucial for your case. During them, you’ll learn what kind of evidence the prosecutor has, and will likely be offered a plea deal. Because this information is critical for your defense, you have a right to demand that your attorney be present, and to have your attorney at your side to hear whatever plea deal gets offered.


It goes without saying, but one of the “critical stages” of the criminal process is the trial, itself. The trial is, after all, where the judge or jury will hear all of the evidence for and against you, and where the decision will be made whether you’re guilty or innocent of the crime charged. This is likely the most important part of the whole criminal process. Therefore, you have a right to demand that you attorney be there, through the trial process.

Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly

With police and law enforcement pushing more and more for convictions, knowing your rights has become absolutely crucial. Understanding when you have a constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment to an attorney, and telling police that you know you have this right, can prevent police from coercing you into doing something that you’ll regret later on.

If you’ve been charged with a crime in the state of Maine, contact the law office of William T. Bly online or at (207) 571-8146 for aggressive legal representation, both in and out of court.



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