A critical stage of proceeding is a term used in criminal procedure to denote the stage at which a person accused of a crime will receive the right to counsel and, at which, if that right is denied, later proceedings will be prejudiced. This right to counsel is based upon the due process clause of the 14th amendment and the 6th amendment.
As the Supreme Court established in Kentucky v. Stincer, a critical stage of proceeding is any stage in which the defendant’s presence has a reasonably substantial relation to their ability to defend themselves. Further cases have concluded that a critical stage of proceeding is one in which the defendant’s presence increases the fairness of the proceeding.
[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]