Legal Question in Constitutional Law in Washington

When the Constitution was 1st ratified it guaranteed the right to assistance of counsel. An accused could retain anyonefor counsel. Now we are forced to retain lawyes. When & how was this change made? Why?

Asked on 12/21/10, 11:14 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

The Sixth Amendment, which was not part of the original Constitution, guarantees criminal defendants the right to "assistance of counsel". It does not, however, say that the accused could retain anyone he chose. "Counsel" means a lawyer, and that is what it meant at the time.

By definition, a lawyer is someone licensed to represent the legal interests of others in court. If a non-lawyer tries to do so, she will be practicing law without a license. Practicing law without a license is illegal, just as it was when the Sixth Amendment was ratified.

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Answered on 12/27/10, 12:10 pm

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