News Story (NATIONAL, South Carolina)
October 28, 2019
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Tags: Fines and Fees
Organizations mentioned/involved: Fines and Fees Justice Center
The uncertainty over how effectively South Carolina municipal courts are providing the constitutional right to counsel reflects a nationwide concern about America’s most localized justice halls, which handle traffic tickets, city ordinance violations and, in some states, low-level misdemeanors like shoplifting that carry up to monthlong jail sentences.
According to David Carroll, the executive director of the Sixth Amendment Center, Beaufort and Bluffton are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local courts with right to counsel problems. At least 11 other states allow city and town-run courts to handle jailable offenses but require those courts to fund their own public defense systems, with little oversight.
“It’s America’s dirty little secret,” he said. “Thousands of people go to jail every day in this country without ever speaking to an attorney.”