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Bill Seeks To Cut State Spending On Public Defenders

In Massachusetts — like every state — individuals charged with a crime are read their rights and offered the right to legal representation. They also have the right to decline representation, but most don’t.

That means that those who can’t pay for their own defense, known as “indigents,” are provided an attorney by the state.

But, under a bill that is expected to be filed by state Rep. David Linsky on Wednesday, indigent defendants charged with certain misdemeanors could be denied a court-appointed attorney.

Linsky says the move would save the state about $10 million a year. Among the crimes that would fall into the no-lawyer category would be trespassing, prostitution, graffiti and 38 others.

Linsky says another $2 million or so will be saved by more carefully verifying whether indigent defendants actually qualify for state-appointed lawyers in cases where they would still be eligible for representation.

Critics say that denying representation to indigent defendants would violate their rights.

Guests:

  • Rep. David Linsky of Natick
  • Stephanie Soriano-Mills, legal resource chair for the NAACP and attorney at Denner Pellegrino, LLP

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WBUR's Sacha Pfeiffer is co-hosting Radio Boston while Meghna Chakrabarti is on maternity leave.

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