Faretta v. California

422 U.S. 806, 95 S. Ct. 2525 (1975)



When an accused manages his own defense, he relinquishes, as a purely factual matter, many of the traditional benefits associated with the right to counsel. For this reason, in order to represent himself, the accused must knowingly and intelligently forgo those relinquished benefits. Although a defendant need not himself have the skill and experience of a lawyer in order competently and intelligently to choose self-representation, he should be made aware of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation, so that the record will establish that he knows what he is doing and his choice is made with eyes open.


The accused, Anthony Faretta, was charged with grand theft in an information filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California. He requested, well before the date of trial, that he be permitted to represent himself. Although preliminarily accepting the accused's waiver of assistance of counsel, the Superior Court Judge to whom the case was assigned ruled that the accused had not made an intelligent and knowing waiver of his right to assistance of counsel after questioning the accused concerning the hearsay rule and the state law governing the challenge of potential jurors. The judge ruled that the accused had no constitutional right to conduct his own defense and appointed a public defender to represent the accused. Following the accused's conviction, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District affirmed the trial judge's ruling that the accused had no constitutional right to represent himself, and accordingly, affirmed his conviction. The California Supreme Court denied review.


Can a state constitutionally hale a person into its criminal courts and force a lawyer upon him, even when he insists that he wants to conduct his own defense?




The United States Supreme Court held that a state could not constitutionally force a lawyer upon a defendant who insists that he wants to conduct his own defense, especially so if he was literate, competent, and understanding, and voluntarily exercised his informed free will. The Court posited that while the right to effective assistance of counsel of U.S. Const. amend. VI was part of the due process of law guaranteed by U.S. Const. amend. XIV to defendants in state criminal courts, counsel thrust upon defendant would not be an assistant, but a master, "representing" defendant only through a legal fiction.

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