The right of a criminal defendant to have a lawyer assist in their defense, even if they cannot afford to pay for one. This right to does not apply in all cases, and comes from a variety of sources. The Sixth Amendment gives defendants the right to counsel in federal prosecutions, but the right was not applied to state prosecutions for felony offences until 1963 in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335; see also Incorporation (of the Bill of Rights). Thus, the right to counsel does not apply in state non-felony cases.
One area of controversy related to the right to counsel is the question of when the right attaches, or, in other words, when, in the process of criminal prosecution, the defendant gains the right. The Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant gains the right to an attorney “at or after the time that judicial proceedings have been initiated against him, whether by formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment” Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 at 398 (1976).
In addition, the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to a lawyer implies the right to an effective lawyer.