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Public Defense Day - March 18

The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers joins the criminal defense community in celebrating Public Defense Day – March 18 – the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright wherein the Supreme Court found that all men and women should have the right to an attorney, regardless of her or his ability to afford one.

“[L]awyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries. The right of one charged with a crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, or state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands qual before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with a crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.

“The right to be heard would be, in many cases, of little avail iff it did not comprehend the right to be heard by counsel. Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the in the science of law. If charged a crime, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence. Left without the aid of counsel, he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence, or evidence irrelevant to the issue or otherwise inadmissible. He lacks both the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defense, even though he may have a perfect one. He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence.” Gideon v. Wainwright, 327 U.S. 335 (1963)

Public defenders dedicate their professional careers to helping those who would never be able to afford their services – not as a charity, but as part of a calling. These women and men practice criminal defense in its purest form as they stand on the front lines, armed with dedication, passion, and a remarkable drive to get up and do it all over again the next day.

On behalf of the OACDL, thank you to all chief and assistant public defenders for being the true heroes of criminal justice in Ohio and for leading the criminal defense bar in your unwavering commitment to justice.

Meredith O’Brien, President

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