The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution gives people in Tennessee and across the country the right to a fair trial in criminal matters. Part of a fair trial is adequate representation. Whether the defendant has hired a lawyer or has had one appointed by the court, the lawyer is required to represent theh client adequately. While perfect representation is not required, a negligent or incompetent lawyer may so damage the client's opportunity for a fair trial that the court may throw out a guilty verdict or order other relief.
Proving inadequate representation in a criminal case is a two-step process. First, the defendant must demonstrate that his or her lawyer made errors serious enough that the lawyer did not meet the requirements of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must demonstrate that his or her lawyer's performance prejudiced the defendant at trial.
Unless both parts of the test are met, a court will not rule that the particular sentence or conviction resulted from a breakdown in the process. Courts also generally defer to the judgment of the lawyer in question, and there is a systemic presumption that any given lawyer is providing adequate representation. Only if it falls below the range of reasonable assistance will the court intervene.
The principal question in inadequate representation cases is whether the lawyer's performance undermined the judicial process to the point that the defendant was deprived of the right to a fair trial. An individual who has been convicted on a criminal charge due to having poor representation during the trial may choose to seek the advice of a lawyer with experience in criminal appeals. Legal counsel can examine the facts of the case to determine whether grounds for an appeal exist.