When someone is arrested and read the Miranda warning, they are told that, if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them. This is a valuable legal right, but is it working as it was intended originally? Throughout the U.S., including Maryland, the answer is usually no. When someone retains a criminal lawyer in Cambridge, MD, they have the right to expect that their attorney will be working very hard to obtain the best possible outcome. When a public defender is assigned a case, the client has the same right to expect the same level of legal representation. Unfortunately, that may not be the reality.
The Time Crunch
Public defenders are excellent attorneys and intend to do the best job possible for their clients. The problem is that public defenders have too many cases and not enough time. Maryland has established limits for the number of cases each public defender should handle, but those limits are not binding. They handle many more cases than recommended.
A recent article in the Baltimore Sun found that one public defender had 1,200 new cases every year or four to five new cases every workday. The first time the attorney would speak to his new clients would typically be in the hall outside the courtroom. He could be meeting several new clients at the same time. There would be very little time to develop a comprehensive defense strategy.
Meet ‘Em and Plead ‘Em”
Meet ’em and plead ’em” is a phrase used to refer to the belief that public defenders clear their caseloads by urging their clients to accept a possibly bad plea deal. Nationally, about 95% of all cases are plea bargained. A lengthy study of the effectiveness of public defenders published in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law identified several problems that resulted from extremely high caseloads.
* Public defenders filed fewer time-consuming pre-trial motions than private attorneys.
* Prosecutors tended to go to trial with easier cases and plea bargain more time-consuming cases.
* Private attorneys normally obtained more favorable plea bargains for their clients than public defenders.
Marc A. Zeve is a criminal lawyer in Cambridge, MD with more than 25 years of experience. When your freedom is at risk, you need an attorney who will fight to protect your rights. To learn more and schedule a consultation to discuss your case, visit website.