The Champion

March 2016 , Page 55 

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Public Defense

By Ben LaBranche

It’s Not Just a Misdemeanor

The 2011 report issued by NACDL, Three-Minute Justice: Haste and Waste in Florida’s Misdemeanor Courts,1outlined a number of problems in that state’s misdemeanor courts and also found that many defendants pled guilty during three-minute arraignments. Attorneys from other states probably can share stories of observing the same types of problems outlined in the report.

The most common problems in misdemeanor courts appear to be interrelated: defendants in need of public defense counsel do not always receive court-appointed attorneys, and unrepresented defendants are encouraged to plead guilty without an attorney. This happens in misdemeanor cases because judges believe that counsel is not needed and that their dockets will move quicker without a court-appointed lawyer. A guilty plea at arraignment also reduces the number of court appearances that a defendant will make, which also helps move the docket along. Additionally, many judges, prose

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