Denial of Jury trial for penalties of 6 months and less violates defendant rights

Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 US 25 – Supreme Court 1972
“It is clear that wherever the right-to-counsel line is to be drawn, it must be drawn so that an indigent 46*46 has a right to appointed counsel in all cases in which there is a due process right to a jury trial. An unskilled layman may be able to defend himself in a nonjury trial before a judge experienced in piecing together unassembled facts, but before a jury the guiding hand of counsel is needed to marshal the evidence into a coherent whole consistent with the best case on behalf of the defendant. If there is no accompanying right to counsel, the right to trial by jury becomes meaningless.”

My Comment:

This absurd opinion clarifies the purpose for incessant legal activism, till the courts get it right.

The Court’s statement makes it clear that the 6 month line deprives defendants’ of their right to trial by jury jury. The judge cannot function as counsel for the defense by piecing together facts. The mere presentation of those facts, properly objecting or arguing against points of evidence by the prosecution, deciding what facts to bring forth, and digging up exculpatory facts, lies far beyond the scope of the judge’s duties, but fit perfectly within the purview of the defense counsel’s duties. Practically speaking, the judge cannot possibly do the defense counsel’s job. Furthermore juries sometimes have the duty to override a judge’s prejudices and inclinations, seeing more to the heart of fairness than the judge. The judge must hear the same tired cases day in and day out, often becoming numbed by the excesses of some defendants and prejudiced in favor of certain prosecutors. A jury can see through this when the judge cannot, and demand a just ruling which the judge could not otherwise provide.

On top of this, a defendant in a misdemeanor could lose his wife and children, his job, and all of his assets because of a one-month term in jail risks it even more highly in longer terms. Depriving any defendant of any constitutional right on the basis of “well, the jail term won’t last THAT long so it isn’t THAT serious, and won’t have THAT big an impact on the defendant’s life,” is utterly crooked. A jail term, however long, as to fundamental purposes:

1. To separate the criminal from society for a season to prevent further crimes against society during that season.
2. To have a terrible impact on (punish) the defendant, so terrible as to make him swear off his criminal inclinations and behavior forever.

A 1 to 6 month stretch in jail can totally destroy a defendant’s financial and family well-being.
For these reasons, there should be NO line

This is my opinion as a non-attorney.

Author: Bob Hurt

See Consumer advocate helping borrowers in foreclosure save their homes and obtain compensation for their injuries.

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