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Ineffective assistance of counsel is a claim that a criminal defendant may assert when their defense attorney’s inadequate representation constitutes a violation of their Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

However, not all cases concerning an attorney’s unsatisfactory performance entitle a defendant to relief. The 1984 landmark Supreme Court case of Strickland v. Washington outlined the two requirements for proving ineffective assistance of counsel: (1) counsel’s performance must be deficient under the circumstances, and (2) but for the counsel’s deficient performance, there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the case would have been different.

Since inadequate representation creates unfair disadvantages to defendants, and often wrongful convictions, successful ineffective assistance of counsel claims may allow for an overturned conviction, vacated sentence or even a new trial.

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