Tallahassee Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
It is not uncommon for someone convicted of a crime to blame their defense attorney for the outcome. In many cases, this simply reflects disappointment in the fact a particular trial strategy did not work. But sometimes, the lawyer’s performance was deficient in a way that actually prejudiced the defendant’s right to receive a fair trial.
At Luke Newman, P.A., we represent clients who are seeking post-conviction relief based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. We understand that everyone–including our fellow lawyers–are humans who make honest mistakes. That said, when a serious legal error unjustly leads to a conviction, the defendant has every right to seek additional counsel from a qualified appellate attorney who can make the case for a new trial.
Understanding the Strickland Test
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees every person accused of a crime the right to the “assistance of counsel for [their] defense.” In a landmark 1984 case, Strickland v. Washington, the U.S. Supreme Court held (in a case originally from Florida) that this means the “right to the effective assistance of counsel.” If a defense attorney’s performance has “so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process,” the Court said that the trial itself “cannot be relied on as having produced a just result.”
Strickland established a two-part test for all subsequent ineffective assistance of counsel claims. First, a convicted defendant must show that their trial attorney’s performance was “deficient.” Second, the defendant must establish that this deficient performance “prejudiced the defense so as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial.”
What qualifies as deficient performance will depend on the specific facts of a given case. In general, judges assume that trial attorneys are competent and did not deliberately make mistakes that jeopardized their client’s rights. That said, some of the more common types of mistakes that can support a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel include:
- Failing to properly explain the consequences of a plea offer to a defendant.
- Failing to look into any witnesses or other evidence that could have proven exculpatory.
- Failing to file critical documents on time.
- Failing to preserve the defendant’s right to appeal a particular issue.
- Failing to make a critical objection or motion during the trial. For example, if a prosecution witness declined to be cross-examined, the defense attorney should have moved to strike the testimony; failure to make such a motion can be deemed ineffective assistance.
Contact Tallahassee Criminal Appellate Attorney Luke Newman Today
Again, it is important to emphasize that mere disagreement with a defense attorney’s trial strategy is not, in and of itself, grounds for ineffective assistance claim. The Strickland test looks for clear mistakes that effectively deprived the defendant of their right to a fair trial. If such mistakes did occur, the defendant needs to take prompt action to assert their constitutional rights.
If you or a family member are looking to pursue an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, or any other type of post-conviction relief, contact Luke Newman, P.A., today to schedule a consultation with a member of our appellate team.