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Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

The Sixth Amendment right to counsel requires not only that a person accused of a crime have the assistance of counsel for his or her defense, but also that such assistance be "effective." Ineffective assistance of counsel is established when a defendant shows two things: first, that trial counsel's performance was inadequate in light of prevailing professional norms at the time of trial; and second, that the ineffective performance resulted in a fundamentally unfair or unreliable result.

The right to the effective assistance of counsel also includes the right to be represented by an attorney who is free from conflicts of interest. This right may be violated if an attorney has a potential conflict of interest that results in prejudice to the defendant, or an actual conflict of interest, which adversely affects the attorney's performance. 21A Am. Jur. 2d Criminal Law § 1135.

The two-prong test for determining the validity of a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel provided in Strickland asks whether counsel's performance was deficient and, if so, whether this deficiency prejudiced the defense. In other words, whether there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different, but for counsel's deficiency.

If a Defendant believes that his or her trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, there are avenues to address that claim. If successful, the court may enter an order for a new trial. In Federal cases, an ineffective assistance of counsel motion is filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2255.

In Florida, an ineffective assistance of counsel motion is filed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 3.850. For information on post-conviction motions, including ineffective assistance of counsel motions, please see our appeals and post-conviction motions page. Be aware that there are strict deadlines when filing ineffective assistance of counsel claims and it is imperative to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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