Under the SIxth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, everyone, even the poor are entitled to representation by competent legal counsel.   The Denver Post reported on Thursday that two non-for profit groups are suing the State of Colorado over a law that requires defendant’s to meet with the District Attorney before they can be offered the opportunity to meet with a Public Defender’s office in misdemeanor cases.  The Supreme Court has held, in Rothgery v. Gillespie County that a defendant’s 6th Amendment right attaches “a criminal defendant’s initial appearance before a judicial officer, where he learns the charge against him and his liberty is subject to restriction, marks the start of adversary judicial proceedings that trigger attachment of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.”  In that case, Colorado’s Attorney General had filed a friend of the court brief asserting that Mr. Rothgery had no such right at the time of his hearing because the State had not committed itself to his prosecution.

The real injustice of this law is that people who are potentially unfamiliar with the consequences of the law and cannot afford a lawyer have their rights explained to them by the prosecuting attorney in the case which, by design and in order to save money, short circuits the plea process.  Where a defendant’s overriding concern is normally a jail sentence, often there is no realistic proposition of jail, despite the advisement.  Moreover, often there are substantial collateral issues with a criminal plea that the Defendant is unaware of and is not advised of before making a plea.

It seems likely to this observer that the current lawsuit has real merit and may well prevail in overturning this law.

Aaron Norris; www.mahrelaw.com

What do you think?