BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Indigent Defense Systems
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Right to counsel and methods for providing indigent criminal defense

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes the right to counsel in federal criminal prosecution. Through a series of landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, the right to counsel has been extended to all criminal prosecutions, state or federal, felony or misdemeanor, that carry a sentence of imprisonment.

States and localities use several methods for delivering indigent criminal defense services:

  • public defender programs
  • assigned counsel programs
  • contract attorneys.

The federal system also has several types of programs to deliver indigent criminal defense:

  • public defender organizations
  • community defender organizations
  • panel attorneys.

 

Data Collections & Surveys

Publications & Products


Indigent Defense Services in the United States, FY 2008–2012 - Updated Describes the indigent defense system for each state and the District of Columbia, including information on administration, methods of operation, and funding.
  PDF (787K) | ASCII file (162K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 68K)

State Government Indigent Defense Expenditures, FY 2008–2012 - Updated Provides data on state government indigent defense expenditures for fiscal years 2008 through 2012.
  PDF (997K) | ASCII file (38K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 26K)

County-based and Local Public Defender Offices, 2007 Examines the provision of public defender services in the 27 states and the District of Columbia in which indigent defense services were funded and administered by counties or local jurisdictions in 2007.
  Press Release | PDF (393KB) | ASCII file (36KB) | Spreadsheet (18KB)

State Public Defender Programs, 2007 Examines the provision of public defender services in the 22 states that had an entirely state-funded and state-administered indigent defense program in 2007.
  Press Release | PDF (460KB) | ASCII file (43KB) | Spreadsheet (445KB)

Public Defender Offices, 2007 - Statistical Tables (Revised) Examines offices that provide representation for indigent defendants through a salaried staff of full-time or part-time attorneys who are employed as direct government employees or through a public, nonprofit organization.
  Acrobat file (PDF 1M) | ASCII file (13K) | Zip format (Spreadsheet 16K) | About the source data

State-Funded Indigent Defense Services, 1999 Presents findings from data collected as part of the 1999 National Survey of Indigent Defense Systems in the 21 States where the State government provides virtually all of the funding for indigent defense services.
  PDF (417K) | ASCII file (22K) | ZIP Format (Spreadsheet 23K) | Codebooks and Datasets

Indigent Defense Services in Large Counties, 1999 & Defense Counsel in Criminal Cases "Two of three felony defendants represented by publicly-financed counsel"
  Press Release | Indigent Defense Services in Large Counties, 1999 (More information about this release) | Defense Counsel in Criminal Cases (More information about this release)

Indigent Defense Services in Large Counties, 1999 Describes the methods by which criminal indigent defense is delivered in the Nation's 100 most populous counties.
  Press Release | PDF (153K) | ASCII file (36K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 18K) | Codebooks and Datasets | To order paper version

Defense Counsel in Criminal Cases Examines issues of legal representation for defendants in federal district court and large local jurisdictions, and inmates in local jails and federal and state prison.
  Press Release | PDF (127K) | ASCII file (35K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 30K) | Codebooks and Datasets | To order paper version

Indigent Defense This report of presented selected findings drawn from various BJS surveys contains information related to the indigent defense for criminal defendants.
  PDF (50K) | ASCII file (12K) | Codebooks and Datasets

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