U.S. Supreme Court Extends Constitutional Right To Effective Assistance Of Counsel in Lafler v. Cooper

After considering two cases – one from Michigan and another from Missouri – the Supreme Court extended a defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel. In Missouri v. Frye, the Court determined that an individual’s right to effective assistance of counsel extends to informal plea bargains between criminal defendants and prosecutors. Further, in Lafler v. Cooper the Court determined that a defendant has a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel where he or she can show with “a reasonable probability” that a plea offer may have been accepted by a judge, but a lawyer’s bad advice caused the defendant to reject a plea bargain and stand trial.

If you have been changed with any criminal offense, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Michigan to ensure your rights are protected.

In the court’s opinion, Justice Kennedy provided “that a defense counsel as a general rule has a duty to communicate to the client formal prosecution offers of a plea deal on terms and conditions that may be favorable to the accused.”

To show harm when a plea offer has lapsed or been rejected because of a lawyer’s bad performance, Justice Kennedy stated “defendants must show they probably would have accepted the more favorable plea offer if they had received effective legal advice and that the plea deal would have been accepted in court.”

In Lafler v. Cooper, the defendant Anthony Cooper decided not to accept a plea deal that would send him to jail for 4 to 7 years for shooting a woman four times. His attorney advised him against accepting the deal because the accused shot the woman below the waist and missed her head. However, at trial Cooper was convicted of assault with intent to murder and received a sentence of up to 30 years in jail.

In Missouri v. Frye, the defendant Frye was charged with driving without a license. Although the prosecutor offered two separate plea deals, Frye’s lawyer failed to tell him about the offers.


Despite arguments by the government that the right to effective assistance of counsel only ensures a fair trial, the Supreme Court majority sided with the defendants in each case, determining that defendants have a right to have “effective counsel” during the plea bargain process.

These decisions are significant and beneficial to the rights of criminal defendants – nearly 95% of all criminal cases nationwide are resolved based on plea agreements, rather than through trial.

For more information about effective assistance of counsel and plea bargains, or if you have been charged any crime in Michigan, contact a top Michigan criminal trial attorney at the Law Offices of Grabel & Associates for a free, immediate consultation.