Post-Conviction Proceedings

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.


Post-Conviction Proceedings.—The right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment applies to “criminal prosecutions,” a restriction that limits its scope but does not exhaust all constitutional rights to representation in adversarial contexts associated with the criminal justice process. The Sixth Amendment requires counsel at the sentencing stage,433 and the Court has held that, where sentencing was deferred after conviction and the defendant was placed on probation, he must be afforded counsel at a hearing on revocation of probation and imposition of the deferred sentence.434 Beyond this, however, the Court has eschewed Sixth Amendment analysis, instead delimiting the right to counsel under due process and equal protection principles.435

433 Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736 (1948).

434 Mempa v. Rhay, 389 U.S. 128 (1967) (applied retroactively in McConnell v. Rhay, 393 U.S. 2 (1968)).

435 State criminal appeals, applications for collateral relief, and post-sentencing parole or probation determinations are examples of procedures with respect to which the Court has not invoked the Sixth Amendment. Using due process analysis, the Court has found no constitutional right to counsel in prison disciplinary proceedings. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 560–70 (1974); Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308, 314–15 (1976). See Fourteenth Amendment, “Rights of Prisoners,” infra.