Anyone, including Illinois residents, who becomes a defendant in the United States' criminal judicial system is entitled to adequate legal representation. Defendants must be provided with adequate counsel whether they are able to pay for it or not. It is a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial when it can be demonstrated that a defendant did not receive adequate representation in a criminal trial or on appeal.
When a defendant can prove that their Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial was violated due to their attorney's inadequate counsel, a guilty verdict may be thrown out. Violation of the Sixth Amendment right occurs when the representation provided by a defendant's attorney can be shown to have been deficient to such a degree that the verdict rendered at the criminal trial is considered unreliable.
The standard for adequate legal representation in defense of a criminal charge does not require that the attorney provide perfect representation for the defendant. Inadequate legal representation is determined only when the defendant is able to prove two key elements. First, the defendant must demonstrate the serious errors made by the attorney that affected his or her defense. Then, the defendant must show that the errors led to an unfairly prejudiced defense in the trial.
Courts generally presume the representation given to those facing criminal charges, while maybe not perfect, falls within the bounds of reasonable advocacy. However, when a defendant who is found guilty at trial can prove that the counsel they received did not rise to the level of the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a fair trial, they may be able to get a new trial. A lawyer may be able to help a defendant prove that his or her original legal representation was inadequate by advising the client of possible errors in the performance of his or her counsel during the trial.