Public Defenders Essay

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In the United States, the adversarial system of justice relies on ensuring a criminal defendant receives a fair trial. The sixth amendment gives defendants the right to legal representation in criminal trials even if they cannot afford one themselves. Each city and county in the United States ensures a defendant the right to counsel. There are different ways cities and counties across the United States provide representation for indigent defendants. One such approach to indigent defense is public defender programs and is a popular system used by many states today. Public defender programs have been around since the 1900’s but gained popularity throughout the years due to the many indigent defense cases.
Historically, the right to
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Subsequently, in 1972 Argersinger v. Hamlin held that defendants were required legal counsel when faced with incarceration from a misdemeanor or felony conviction (Smith, 2004). Following these Supreme Court decisions, most state and local governments had to develop new systems of indigent defense or modify the old ones to keep up with the number of clients (Wice, 2005). Since Gideon v. Wainwright, other cases have challenged the Supreme Court application of the right to counsel. Currently, all defendants are given the right to counsel at all stages of the criminal justice process, including during trial, appeals, and even during police interrogation.
There are three different methods that states use to provide indigent defense; public defenders, assigned counsel, and contract attorneys. Depending on the size of a city or county usually determines what type of indigent defense is employed. Public defender programs can be public or private nonprofit organizations (Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). Public defender programs are found mostly in populous jurisdictions and are most effective in defending large numbers of indigent clients (Wice, 2005). Sometimes counties or states will use more than one type of defense for indigents. Today, public defender programs represent close to seventy percent of all indigent defense nationwide (Neubauer & Fradella,
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