NACDL News: Federal Class Action Challenges South Carolina Sixth Amendment-Free Zones, Builds on Imp

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal class action lawsuit on Oct. 12, 2017, against the city of Beaufort and the town of Bluffton, both in South Carolina. The U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantees that a person accused of a crime has the right to a lawyer, whether or not the individual can afford to hire one. In South Carolina, the bulk of criminal cases are offenses heard in municipal and magistrate courts, collectively referred to as summary courts. As explained in the ACLU press release, the suit challenges “South Carolina municipal courts’ unconstitutional practices of denying lawyers to people who can’t afford private attorneys and are sentenced to incarceration. In the city of Beaufort and the town of Bluffton’s municipal courts, people are prosecuted, convicted, sentenced, and jailed without being provided public defenders, or even advised of their right to counsel, violating the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.”