The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives a
criminal defendant a right to a fair trial. On 21 March 2012, the
US Supreme Court ruled that this constitutional right also includes
a right to an effective lawyer during plea bargaining negotiations.
Consequently, the right of effective counsel in all parts of a
criminal proceeding is strengthened by applying it to the entire
plea bargaining process.
The US Supreme Court formulated this new standard in two recent
cases (Missouri v Frye and Lafler v Cooper), in
which legal advice of counsel led the defendant to reject a
favourable plea bargain. The Supreme Court argued that had the
lawyers counselled the defendants well, they would have taken the
shorter sentence. To win a challenge under this new standard, a
defendant must show that with effective counsel, he would have
taken a plea offer, the judge would have approved it and the deal
would have been more favourable than the actual case's outcome.
As such, US Supreme Court case law has changed the plea bargaining
process from unregulated negotiations to a procedure under judicial
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