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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

What Does a Failing Public Defenders System Sound Like?

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >>

IDP YesOn6 croppedOver the years, the ACLU of Utah has received many compelling complaints from Utahns who feel frustrated, confused, hurt, insulted and abandoned after trying to navigate the criminal justice system without the necessary resources and support. This is what it sounds like when our system of providing public defense is failing Utah residents:

“I met my lawyer in the court room at my preliminary hearing, for about two minutes, after I waited in jail for two weeks. He advised me to waive my preliminary hearing. That’s it! 

The next time we met, he told me they were offering a plea of one second-degree felony and one third-degree felony. He never asked me for my side of the story to provide me with a vigorous defense. He never took the time to have a heart-to-heart talk about everything that happened. I would think he would need the whole story, even to negotiate a decent plea bargain.”

(Individual pled guilty  to aggravated assault and possession of a deadly weapon by a restricted person; currently incarcerated at Utah State Prison).

“After being charged with two felonies (one second-degree and one third-degree), I was in jail for about two weeks before I met my lawyer in the courthouse for a couple of minutes. We met again for about twenty minutes before my arraignment hearing. He showed me what they had on me and what I should plead to. 

He rushed through everything and a lot of it I didn’t understand. He was hard to get a hold of on the phone when I called. It took a long time for him to get back to me on any questions I had for him – if at all. My attorney didn’t seem very familiar with my case.”

(Individual pled guilty to one count of enticing a minor over the internet; it was his first ever arrest. He is currently serving a sentence of one-to-fifteen years at USP).

Find out more about the ACLU of Utah’s work to reform Utah’s Indigent Defense System >>