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The Right to Counsel in the 21st Century

As we touched on last week, the Sixth Amendment protects not just a right to counsel but a right to the effective assistance of counsel. In the 21st century, this means at least three things. First, the government can’t take away your life or liberty without a legal defense. Second, if you can’t afford a lawyer, the Read More

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When in Doubt, File the Appeal

Last week it was the Eighth Amendment; this week, it’s the Sixth. The Sixth Amendment says, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to … have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court said the right to counsel means you decide whether to appeal, not your lawyer. If Read More

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The Eighth Amendment Applies to the States in Full

The Eighth Amendment consists of one sentence: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Until Wednesday, it wasn’t clear if the part about excessive fines applied to the individual states. In fact, you may not know this, but the entire Bill of Rights applied only to Read More

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New California Criminal Laws: Part One

Let’s get to it. We’ve already covered the big new bail law, which won’t go into effect until October 1. Here are three new laws effective January 1, 2019. Drunk driving will catch you an ignition-interlock device on your car. This is Senate Bill 1046. It amends the Vehicle Code to require most anyone who’s convicted of Read More

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Why We Defend People

In 2009, I was a prosecutor in Orange County when I became a defendant in my own criminal case. I was falsely accused of domestic violence, and I was charged with two felony counts even though I was the one who called the police three times that night over my accuser’s behavior. It was surreal. Read More

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A Personal View of California’s Bail Reform

This problem of locking people up before trial is personal to me. Ten years ago, I was falsely accused of a crime, and I spent a night in jail based on one person’s word. I had committed no crime, but I was booked for and charged with felony domestic violence, and I had to take the Read More

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The Pros and Cons of Bail Reform

We’ll see how California’s new bail law plays out in practice. On one hand, it promises to treat rich and poor alike when it comes to keeping someone in jail until any trial. It says everyone will get out within twelve hours on a misdemeanor charge, with some exceptions. And if you’re accused of a Read More

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California to End Money Bail

On August 28, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 10 into law. It becomes effective October 1, 2019, and as you may have heard, it changes everything. It completely repeals the chapter of the Penal Code that provided for cash bail and replaces it with an entirely new one. Here’s the gist of it. If you’re arrested for Read More

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Happy Birthday, 14th Amendment

Did you know? This summer marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment. To commemorate the occasion, here is a look at the Ohio congressman who authored arguably the most important amendment after the first ten. If he’s forgotten today then it’s a shame because he’s responsible for these momentous words: “All persons born Read More

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The Trial Penalty

That’s the title of this new report by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It looks at the steep decline of jury trials in our system, explains why that matters, and examines how to preserve this important right to trial by jury. What is the trial penalty? It refers to the big difference in Read More

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