Faretta v. California (1975) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Faretta v. California (1975) is a SCOTUS ruling that established the precedent that people have a right to self-representation in criminal cases.

Faretta v. California (1975) is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that established the precedent that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to represent themselves in court. The case arose out of a criminal trial in which the defendant, Faretta, chose to represent himself rather than be represented by an attorney.

The case centered on the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which guarantees criminal defendants the right to an attorney. In Faretta, the Supreme Court held that this right also includes the right to self-representation. The Court reasoned that the right to an attorney is not an absolute right but rather a right that can be waived by a competent defendant who chooses to represent themselves.

The Court emphasized that the decision to represent oneself in a criminal trial is a serious one and that defendants should be informed of the risks and consequences of self-representation. The Court also noted that self-representation can be a difficult and risky undertaking and that defendants who choose to represent themselves may be at a disadvantage in terms of legal knowledge and courtroom experience.

Despite these concerns, the Court held that the right to self-representation is an important constitutional right that should not be lightly denied. The Court held that a criminal defendant who asserts their right to self-representation must be competent to do so and that they must be allowed to represent themselves if they are able to do so.

The decision in Faretta has had significant implications for the criminal justice system in the United States. It has empowered criminal defendants to take an active role in their own defense and has given them greater control over the outcome of their cases. However, it has also placed a greater burden on the court system, as self-represented defendants often require more guidance and assistance from the court.

In practice, the right to self-representation is not an absolute right, and courts have the discretion to deny a defendant’s request to represent themselves if they are not competent to do so. Courts may also appoint standby counsel to assist a self-represented defendant or may revoke the right to self-representation if the defendant engages in disruptive or disrespectful behavior in court.

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Last Modified: 04/15/2023


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