Today marks the 56th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Hamilton v. Alabama. Hamilton stands for the simple proposition that the 14th amendment due process clause incorporates your sixth amendment right to counsel against the states, meaning you must be allowed to have a lawyer at your arraignment.
The case behind the Hamilton decision is stunning for the nature of the crime at the center of the case. In the mid 1950’s Mr. Hamilton was arrested and charged with Burglary with intent to Ravish which at the time was a capital offense. Mr. Hamilton, being indigent was unable to afford an attorney. This case occurred before the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright which guaranteed indigent people the right to counsel. As such, Mr. Hamilton was not given an attorney, and at his arraignment Mr. Hamilton plead not guilty.