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American Bar Association, Section of Criminal Justice




When the Supreme Court, in Argersinger v. Hamlin, extended the right to counsel to misdemeanor defendants facing imprisonment, it raised the prospect of an eventual expansion of this right to defendants in all criminal prosecutions. This expansion appears to be the probable culmination of the historical development of the right to counsel. While prediction from a trend is never fully satisfactory, a trend toward such expansion exists nonetheless. The interpretation of the scope of the sixth amendment right to counsel as applied to the states has evolved from application to defendants in capital cases, to application to those whose lack of ability represented special circumstances, and then, to affording the right to all defendants in felony cases. Argersinger has now extended the right to misdemeanor defendants who face imprisonment. The trend in interpretation of what the right to counsel encompasses is obvious.



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