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Criminal defense voucher program in Texas on trial

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Being charged with a crime is a serious matter in the state of Texas. Thankfully, fifty years ago, the United States Supreme Court held that those accused of a crime had a right to legal representation. Yet, what the court did not determine is who or how such legal services would be funded. Over the years, most states have creating some form of public defender program, which, for better or for worse, has provided accused individuals with some form of legal representation.

The state of Texas, however, has recently begun running a pilot program that could change the make-up of the public defender program in the state. The program runs on vouchers, permitting accused individuals to use the funds available on the voucher to access whatever legal representation they choose. This concept, introduced by a couple of Cato Institute scholars, strives to offer indigent individuals the option to choose their legal representation instead of accepting whichever public defender is assigned to them.

The program is undergoing a test run in Comal County. There is no guarantee that the program will expand statewide or persist as a long-running form of funding for legal representation. However, the success or failure to the program will likely make a huge statement on the current public defender system in the state.

Bringing forth a proper criminal defense when one is accused of a crime can make a substantial difference in the outcome of a case. A vigorous criminal defense attorney will bring forth all compelling arguments, search for helpful witnesses and keep out irrelevant evidence. These efforts can often help secure a reduced charge or even result in dropped charges.

Source: Cato Institute, "NYT Reports on Indigent Defense Vouchers in Texas," Tim Lynch, Jan. 6, 2014

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