Minor Crimes, Massive Waste

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The explosive growth of misdemeanor cases is placing a staggering burden on America's courts. Defenders across the country are forced to carry unethical caseloads that leave too little time for clients to be properly represented. As a result, constitutional obligations are left unmet and taxpayers' money is wasted.

An examination by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers demonstrated that misdemeanor courts across the country are incapable of providing accused individuals with the due process guaranteed them by the Constitution. As a result, every year millions of accused misdemeanants—overwhelmingly those unable to hire private counsel, and disproportionately people of color—are denied their constitutional right to equal justice. And, taxpayers are footing the bill for these gross inefficiencies.

This Open Society Foundations-supported report explains, in depth, these and other problems observed in misdemeanor courts and offers recommendations for reform, while highlighting best practices from across the country.