Thousands of people face charges each year that will not result in jail time. But the state’s public defenders have to represent them anyway. Missouri’s lawyers want the legislature to lighten their load because some public defender offices are refusing to take new cases, citing case overloads. They fear they can’t give clients the time needed for an adequate defense.
The board of the Missouri Bar will push for a new law next year eliminating the need for public defenders in many cases by eliminating the possibility of jail time for an lesser offense. Bar President John Johnson of Kansas City says the proposal will make the system more efficient and more economical.
Johnson says the accused person in those minor cases would have to get private attorneys or represent themselves because Public Defenders are only used in cases where jail time is possible.
Another part of the package changes the law to make diversion programs mandatory for many minor crimes instead of fines or jail sentences.