A criminal defendant’s initial appearance before a magistrate judge, where he learns the charge against him and his liberty is subject to restriction, marks the initiation of adversary judicial proceedings that trigger attachment of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Attachment does not also require that a prosecutor (as distinct from a police officer) be aware of that initial proceeding or involved in its conduct. Pp. 5–20.What's the significance? In the past, a defendant was not entitled to counsel at their bail hearing unless they couldn't make bond or bail was denied. In that case they had counsel appointed fairly quickly. But in the case where a defendant makes bond but also requests a lawyer, Texas courts previously held the defendant could not get a court appointed lawyer until they were indicted, leaving indigent defendants for weeks in limbo with no legal adviser. Now SCOTUS has said courts must appoint counsel for indigent defendants at their bail hearing.
(a) Texas’s article 15.17 hearing marks the point of attachment, with the consequent state obligation to appoint counsel within a reasonable time once a request for assistance is made.
That's how most other states do it; Texas had just been skimping by not appointing counsel earlier. According to the opinion, "The Court is advised without contradiction that not only the Federal Government, including the District of Columbia, but 43 States take the first step toward appointing counsel before, at, or just after initial appearance. To the extent the remaining 7 States have been denying appointed counsel at that time, they are a distinct minority."
Pero no mas.
Congrats to everybody over at the Texas Fair Defense Project who spearheaded the case. This was a big win on an important topic.
See prior related Grits posts:
- Rothgery v. John Wiley Price: Move to slash Dallas defender budget couldn't come at worse time
- When does the adversarial process commence?
- Number arrested with no charges filed closer to 2% than half
- Rothgery oral arguments reveal new insight about murky systems
- Do they really have to appoint you a lawyer when you ask for one?
- SCOTUS to decide in Texas case when right to counsel attaches