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An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

National Survey of Indigent Defense Systems

Public Defense

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sets forth the right to counsel in federal criminal prosecutions. Through a series of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, the right to counsel has been extended to all criminal prosecutions—state or federal, felony or misdemeanor—that carry a sentence of imprisonment.

States and localities ensure defendants can access public defense—criminal defense services for those persons who cannot...