Roughly one million felony convictions are filed every year compared to 10 million
misdemeanors. As a result, many argue that due process is wholly ignored for defendants accused of a misdemeanors. Criminal defense lawyers take their duty, as a protector of the Constitution very seriously, and will fight to protect the rights of their clients accused of any crime, even a misdemeanor. But with so many misdemeanor filings, it could be extremely difficult to give the attention required to each case. If a public defender is assigned tons of cases, albeit misdemeanors, there simply isn't time to adequately investigate and research all the legal issues as well as factual circumstances of each case.
Unfortunately, the public defender have at times been referred to as public pretenders. I can say with confidence, that the 10th Judicial District Public in Johnson County, Kansas are far from pretenders. In fact, they are competent and very hard working. However, they focus on felony allegations. There is a system set up for the misdemeanors, where numerous private attorneys in the county take on appointed cases for the misdemeanor cases. This spreads the work out more evenly and allows the criminal defense attorneys to focus on their case.
But what about areas where the appointment lawyers are too inundated with cases? Even in Johnson County, KS, if you were to take too many cases, you could potentially have a difficult time keeping up with them all. There could be pressure by the system, including the judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers into pleading guilty. To compound the problem, some people simply want to get out of jail and are quick to take a deal, if it means they get out right then. But the quick fix simply is not everything it's cracked up to be. You are left with a criminal record. A criminal record can seriously complicate a person's life. It can ruin job prospects, affect eligibility for professional licenses, interfere with child custody, food stamps, public housing, student loans, health care, and can even lead to deportation. Furthermore, you could be left with a stringent probation in Johnson County, where many people end up failing and going back into custody.
Why are so many cases filed? Politics. Money. The system. The police are quick to make and arrest and just "let the court sort it out." The problem is, once you are in the system, there is pressure to "sort it out" by simply pleading guilty. And that can be devastating. That's why I especially disdain Overland Park's arrest policy during domestic violence investigations. In essence, if they are called out, somebody is going to get arrested. It will most likely lead to actual charges in court with first being carefully scrutinized by the prosecutor who is supposed to be acting for justice, not politics.