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Public Defenders Lack Access to The Resources Necessary to Keep Innocent People Out of Jail

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Although in America, citizens who are accused of crimes are supposed to have an advantage because the burden of proof is on the state of prosecution, in practice, this is not the case, and the government often has the edge because they cannot only issue subpoenas, compel testimony, and pressure defendants to enter into pleas, but they have a lot more access to technology than public defenders.

The New York Times recently ran an important article on the discrepancies in resources that are available to public defenders versus prosecutors, and how this plays out in criminal cases. Unfortunately, these resources include gadgets that can make all the difference in terms of keeping innocent clients out of jail.

One Side Has Access To The Evidence

This gap has two forms: First, law-enforcement agencies can use court orders to control companies and force them to turn over communications that become key pieces of evidence, but defense attorneys cannot. In addition, software and machines designed to extract data from smartphones and other machines have historically been made available to law-enforcement; sometimes exclusively. Digital forensics plays a role in essentially every case today, and not only is it essential to tracking down evidence that is almost impossible, but presents it in a format that is suitable for court.

There is no question that it is an uneven playing field, and there has been inadequate scrutiny of those very techniques that law-enforcement has relied on to extricate data. The pattern is as follows: law enforcement gains access to a new technique, such as DNA analysis, and defendants struggle to play catch-up.

Access to Forensic Experts

On top of this, public defenders versus private defense attorneys are frequently underfunded and law-enforcement will often monopolize experts and prohibit them from working with the defense. In addition, when public defenders do hire private consultants to examine evidence, it is costly and comes with requirements that are close to impossible to accomplish, such as requiring that a defendant turn over their phone for a week or more. This is a significant reason why more and more defendants in both state and federal cases are taking plea bargains.

Cooperation From Key Tech Companies

Unfortunately, this also extends to working with the big tech companies, such as Facebook and Google. These companies hold public defenders to the same standards as law-enforcement agencies who are required (and able) to obtain warrants to access communications under the Stored Communications Act, however, the defense cannot obtain warrants, it can only issue subpoenas, which are often ignored by these same companies. In effect, these companies refusing to comply with the subpoena request translates to innocent defendants lingering in jail for years awaiting trial without crucial evidence.

Contact The Very Best in Criminal Defense Representation

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, it is crucial that you work with a West Palm Beach criminal attorney who has access to the resources you need to prove your innocence.

Our team has the experience necessary to provide you with the very best in criminal defense. Contact the office of William Wallshein, P.A. today to find out more about our services.

 

Resource:

nytimes.com/2019/11/22/business/law-enforcement-public-defender-technology-gap.html

https://www.wallsheinlaw.com/fifth-circuit-reverses-murder-conviction-of-florida-man-who-shot-deputy-defending-his-niece/

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