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Michigan may set standards for public defenders

The Sixth Amendment guarantees each of us access to a defense attorney if we are ever arrested or charged with a crime. Then in 1963, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision found that this vital right holds true for everyone regardless of ability to pay.

This gave rise to public defender systems in Michigan and the rest of the country. As most of our readers know, courts assign public defenders to the defendant when he or she does have the means to pay an attorney.

This system has given millions of defendants a chance to protect their legal rights and reduced their chances of incarceration. At the same time, critics have pointed out numerous cases where an indigent defendant did not receive effective legal defense from their public defender.

Often, this is due to the fact that public defender’s offices around the country are operating on budgets that are a fraction of what is needed, stretching hardworking attorneys to the breaking point. But sometimes, defendants get an attorney who is not qualified to mount a legal defense.

That appears to be the issue behind new rules being proposed by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. According to the Detroit Free Press, the agency is seeking to impose minimum standards for public defenders practicing in Michigan.

The new standards would involve guidelines for public defenders’ education, as well as their ability to conduct an initial interview with the client, make first appearances in court and retain expert witnesses when appropriate.

If you have been charged with a crime, an experienced defense attorney is a vital investment in your freedom.

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