Public Defender

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  • A defense attorney provided for the offender and paid for by the state. Although the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that all criminal defendants have the right to assistance of counsel, historically, very few defendants enjoyed that right because most could not afford attorneys. In Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that attorneys would be provided for indigent defendants in both federal and state felony prosecutions. All states now have some mechanism for the provision of public defenders for indigent defendants. While many states have public defender offices, others pay defense attorneys on a contractual basis. For more information, see Gideon v. Wainwright (1963).

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