170 JURIDICA INTERNATIONAL XIX/2012
Jaan Ginter Anneli Soo
Professor of Criminology Ph.D.,
University of Tartu Fulbright-Schuman Scholar
California State University, Fullerton
The Right of the Suspect
to Counsel in Pre-trial Criminal
Proceedings, Its Content,
and the Extent of Application
In order to guarantee that the rights of a suspect are respected throughout the criminal proceedings, he
or she should have the right to counsel from the very early stages of the proceedings, at least immediately
upon arrest.*1 Nevertheless, as soon as this principle is recognised, several questions arise. First, should
this right be interpreted in such a way that the suspect has a right to counsel not only before procedural
acts that involve him or her but also during these acts? Secondly, should the right be absolute in nature?
In this article, it is suggested that the answer to the ﬁ rst question is ‘yes’, and the arguments supporting
this perspective are brought out. Additionally, it is discussed that this right is subject to restrictions if the
suspect him- or herself agrees therewith or there are compelling reasons for this. For us to answer the two
questions mentioned above, ﬁ rstly, the sources of the right of suspects to counsel in pre-trial proceedings
are explicated. Here legal acts and judicial practice from both Europe and the United States (US) are used as
examples, the latter being a state in which the principles of the right to counsel have been well under devel-
opment for a long time. Next, the advantages and disadvantages of guaranteeing the right to counsel during
pre-trial proceedings without any restrictions are analysed. Finally, warranted justiﬁ cations for restriction
of the right to counsel in pre-trial proceedings are discussed, with mindfulness of the judicial practice of
the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia*2, the (draft)
legislation of the European Union (EU), and the experience of the US.
1 Green Paper from the Commission—Procedural Safeguards for Suspects and Defendants in Criminal Proceedings throughout
the European Union (19.2.2003, COM(2003) 75 ﬁ nal), Sections 4.1 and 4.3 (a).
2 Eesti Vabariigi põhiseadus. – RT 1992, 26, 349; RT I, 27.4.2011, 2 (in Estonian). The Constitution of the Republic of Estonia.
Unofﬁ cial translation available at http://www.legaltext.ee/et/andmebaas/tekst.asp?loc=text&dok=X0000K1&keel=en&pg
=1&ptyyp=RT&tyyp=X&query=p%F5hiseadus (most recently accessed on 16.8.2012).