NACDL News: NACDL Report Documents ‘Sixth Amendment-Free’ Proceedings in South Carolina Courts

On Jan. 18, 2017, NACDL released its second report on South Carolina’s summary courts, Rush to Judgment: How South Carolina’s Summary Courts Fail to Protect Constitutional Rights. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a person accused of a crime has the right to a lawyer, whether or not he or she can afford to hire one. In South Carolina, the bulk of criminal cases are relatively minor offenses heard in municipal and magistrate courts, collectively referred to as summary courts. As demonstrated by the NACDL reports, these courts routinely fail to inform defendants of their right to counsel and refuse to provide counsel to the poor at all stages of the criminal process. South Carolina summary courts also regularly violate the Constitution by sentencing defendants to jail simply because they cannot afford to pay fines.