Sunday, September 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

The importance of public defenders

By
April 12, 2011 |

In the landmark 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution and held that a fundamental and essential prerequisite to a fair criminal justice system is the right to be defended by competent and effective lawyers.

The court stated, “Reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to us to be an obvious truth.”

Of all the services Yolo County provides, only the services provided by the Public Defender’s Office are mandated by the Constitution.

The Yolo County Public Defender’s Office represents, in all stages of criminal proceedings, indigent persons accused of crimes. Primarily, the office provides legal services to indigent adults accused of felony and misdemeanor criminal violations, and to juveniles prosecuted for alleged conduct that would be criminal if they were adults.

The office also represents proposed conservatees in mental health proceedings when the person is alleged to be unable to care for him or herself; ultimately another individual, a conservator, may be appointed to make critical life decisions for the conservatee. In some cases, the Public Defender’s Office provides legal services to individuals whose parenting interests may be affected.

Why are these services important? Because Americans believe in fairness. They accept the idea that laws should be applied equally and that punishment should fit the crime. However, many people also believe that they, personally, will never need the services of a criminal attorney, much less a lawyer from the Public Defender’s Office. If they are lucky — in life and all it has to offer — that is true.

What every person should appreciate, though, is that the Public Defender’s Office, in addition to representing people individually, also provides a system of checks and balances on the criminal justice system as a whole. It guarantees that no agency — whether that be the District Attorney’s Office or a police department — is allowed to operate unchallenged and unquestioned. The Constitution is very much a reaction to the events that came before it.

“Our founding fathers were careful to reject any system which vested in a single person or group unlimited powers,” explains Yolo County Public Defender Tracie Olson. “The attorneys in my office seek to ensure that the rights of individuals are not whittled away to the point that the goals of the Constitution are forgotten.”

The Yolo County Public Defender’s Office provides all of these services with a team of 21 attorneys, four investigators and five support staff. In the last fiscal year, the Public Defender’s Office handled approximately 6,798 newly opened or reopened cases: 2,860 felony cases; 3,131 misdemeanor cases; 650 juvenile cases; and 157 conservatorship cases. In 2009, 121 jury trials were litigated countywide.

— Beth Gabor is the Yolo County Public Information Officer.

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Elementary school counselors: necessary, but poorly funded

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
     
    Bet Haverim hosts High Holy Day services

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

     
    Teams assess damage as wildfire burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Driver arrested for DUI after Saturday morning crash

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Help raise funds for juvenile diabetes cure

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Jewelry, art for sale at Senior Center

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Davis Community Meals needs cooks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Hawk Hill trip planned Sept. 30

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    UC campus chancellors granted hefty pay raises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Send kids to camp!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Da Vinci awarded $38,000 for restorative justice program

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Outdoor yoga marathon celebrates community

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Wise words

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    Awareness is key to this fight

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Where is this going?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A6

    We’re living in the Golden State of emergency

    By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A6

     
    Options for protection come with flu season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Are we there yet? Not enough hours in the day to goof off

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

     
    Don’t sell city greenbelt

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Paso Fino project is flawed

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Paso Fino — it’s not worth it

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Archer will get my vote

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    It’s time for Davis Scouts to stand up for what is right

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Mike Keefe cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Building something at schools’ HQ

    By Our View | From Page: A10

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Maybe David can beat Goliath again

    By Lynne Nittler | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Sports

    DHS gets on its Morse to beat Edison

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    JV Blue Devils drop low-scoring affair

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B2

     
    Republic FC’s fairy tale season continues

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Wire briefs: Giants rally falls short in San Diego

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Four local swimmers qualify for Olympic Trials

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    ‘We’re a way better team’ than record, says UCD’s Shaffer

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    UCD roundup: Aggie men pound Pomona-Pitzer in the pool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B4

    Davis 15-year-old making a splash in European F4 series

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘Ladies Foursome’ adds shows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    .

    Business

    UCD grad’s startup earns kudos at TechCrunch event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Styles on target for November debut

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7

    MBI hires VP of marketing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Taylor Morrison unveils new Woodland community next weekend

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Rob White: What is an ‘innovation center’?

    By Rob White | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Carol L. Walsh

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, September 21, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8