Proposed Rules ArchivesCrR 3.1 - Right to and Assignment of Lawyer
Purpose: The proposed amendment is designed to balance the rights of the defendant against the rights of witnesses in criminal cases. Persons accused of crimes have a federal and state constitutional right to the assistance of counsel for their defense. The Supreme Court of the United States has held that defendants also have the right to waive representation by counsel and to represent themselves regardless of the crime charged. When a defendant waives the right to counsel, witnesses are then subject to questioning by the defendant.
The right to appear pro se exists to affirm the dignity and autonomy of the defendant and to allow the presentation of what may be the defendant’s best possible defense. Courts have held that the right to self-representation is not infringed when the defendant has a fair chance to present his or her case in the defendant’s own way and to make his or her voice heard. The right to self-representation is not an absolute right and courts have required the assistance of standby counsel in some situations. In addition, courts are entitled to control the mode of witness interrogation to more effectively ascertain the truth and to protect the witness from harassment or undue embarrassment to the extent the defendant’s rights are not violated.
A defendant generally has the right under the Sixth Amendment to demand the physical presence at trial of accusatory witnesses. Courts have held that this right is also not absolute and that in some cases, the defendant's right to face-to-face confrontation may be outweighed where necessary to further an important public policy and only where the reliability of the testimony is otherwise assured. The Washington State Supreme Court has held that the state's interest in the physical and psychological well-being of child abuse victims may be sufficiently important to outweigh, at least in some cases, a defendant's right to face his or her accusers in court.
The amendment confirms the court’s authority to control the courtroom, and in cases in which the court has determined in a hearing outside the presence of the jury that a defendant may not question a witness without restriction gives the court a non-exclusive list of means of moving the case forward in a manner that is fair to both the defendant and witnesses.
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