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Colorado Rights Blog

HB 1309 – Right to Counsel in Municipal Court

Bill Number: HB16 - 1309
Year: 2016
ACLU Position: Active Support
Sponsors: V. Marble / S. Lontine

Description:
HB 1309 – A Bill to Safeguard the Right to Counsel in Municipal Court

In state and county courts, the public defender is available at first appearance to advocate for release of jailed defendants and to advise these defendants on possible pleas when jail is a possible sentence. In almost all Colorado municipal courts, however, municipal defendants must face the judge alone, must make arguments for release alone, and must decide how to plead alone.

HB 1309 ensures counsel at first appearance to the most vulnerable defendants. It requires counsel be provided at first appearance to those defendants who are so poor that they cannot afford to bond out of jail on a minor municipal offense and who face a possible jail sentence.

By providing counsel at first appearance, when most municipal defendants plead guilty, municipal courts would come in line with Supreme Court caselaw holding that first appearance and guilty pleas are “critical stages” where the right to counsel attaches.




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