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United States v. Gouveia


Four defendants, all of whom were inmates in a federal prison, were placed in administrative detention in individual cells pending the investigation of a fellow inmate’s death. They remained in administrative detention without appointed counsel for approximately 19 months before their indictment for murder and their arraignment, when counsel was appointed for them.


Whether the defendants were entitled to appointed counsel during their administrative detention?


No. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is not effective until the government has initiated adversarial proceedings.


The Court held that the defendants were not constitutionally entitled to the appointment of counsel while they were in administrative segregation and before any adversary judicial proceedings had been initiated against them. The right to counsel attaches only at or after the initiation of adversary judicial proceedings against a defendant. This interpretation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is consistent not only with the literal language of the Amendment, which requires the existence of both a “criminal [prosecution]” and an “accused,” but also with the purposes that the right to counsel serves, including assuring aid at trial and at “critical” pretrial proceedings when the accused is confronted with the intricacies of criminal law or with the expert advocacy of the public prosecutor, or both.


467 U.S. 180, 104 S. Ct. 2292 (1984)

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