A Comparison of Sentencing Outcomes for Defendants with Public Defenders Versus Retained Counsel in a Florida Circuit Court

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Marian Williams Ph.D., Professor & Assistant Chairperson (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/

Abstract: The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that a criminal defendant has the right to counsel for his defense, and the Fourteenth Amendment states that defendants must be provided due process and equal protection under law. Despite this, it is unclear whether indigent defendants in the United States-who are disproportionately ethnic minorities-are receiving such protections when it comes to the defense of their criminal cases. Approximately 80 percent of criminal defendants require court-appointed counsel because they are indigent. Many have questioned whether the case outcomes of defendants with court-appointed counsel are equivalent to those of defendants with retained counsel (Marcus, 1994).The focus of this note is a public defender system. Public defender systems have been subject to much criticism because of the problems that some jurisdictions face. Many systems are underfunded, resulting in low salaries for attorneys and insufficient legal and support staff. The lack of funds and staff can result in overwhelming caseloads (Calogero, 1995; Drecksel, 1991; Marcus, 1994; Ogletree, 1995). It appears that one of the biggest problems facing all indigent defense systems is funding. Funding can affect the quality of services provided if there are not enough resources to do the job adequately. The current study addressed this issue by examining the public defender system in a northern Florida county. Effectiveness can be measured in a number of ways, including client satisfaction, number of dismissals, and favorable outcomes. This study focused simply on whether public defenders are able to obtain similar sentences for their clients when compared with private attorneys, controlling for relevant case characteristics such as charge seriousness and prior record. The state of Florida is considered to have an above-average public defender system (Spangenberg Group, 1996); therefore, negative results attributed to a good public defender system could have strong policy implications.

Additional Information

Williams, M. (2002). A comparison of sentencing outcomes for defendants with public defenders versus retained counsel in a Florida Circuit Court. Justice System Journal, 23, 249-258. ISSN: 0098-261X
Language: English
Date: 2002

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