Right to Counsel

The right to quality counsel in a criminal case is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We work to make sure all people get the effective assistance of counsel to which they are constitutionally entitled, regardless of ability to pay an attorney.

Ensuring Access to Counsel

Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the right to counsel is the most fundamental right possessed by people accused of a crime, thousands of people accused of crimes in Texas are denied access to counsel each year, particularly in misdemeanor cases. Some people are not informed of their right to appointed counsel, or are pressured by courts and prosecutors to plead guilty without obtaining legal advice about possible defenses and the direct and indirect consequences of conviction.​ In other situations, counties delay the process of appointing people counsel for extended periods of time, in violation of the law.

TFDP works to ensure that all people accused of criminal offenses can access a quality lawyer to help them navigate the legal system, and that no one is pressured to plead guilty before having the opportunity to obtain legal advice.​​

If you have not been able to request an appointed lawyer, or if you have tried to request a lawyer but have not received one, there is a form to apply for assistance here.

Expanding Public Defender Offices

One way to ensure quality representation for people who cannot afford to hire their own attorney is through a well-funded, holistic public defender office.  Public defender offices are independent law firms dedicated to supporting people who have been caught up in the criminal legal system. In collaboration with national experts, state and local officials, community organizations, and directly impacted people, TFDP works to establish and expand public defender offices established throughout Texas.

• Local and legislative advocacy. TFDP has worked with local jurisdictions like Travis County and Harris County to help get public defender offices off the ground.

• Research and publications.
TFDP has authored white papers, research briefs, Op-Ed's and other materials.

• Collaboration with community groups. TFDP supports grassroots efforts to improve public defense systems.

Reading Materials

white paper - benefits of a public defender office: increasing accountability and effectiveness in harris county's indigent defense system

texas supreme court opinion - heckman v. williamson county

united states supreme court opinion - rothgery v. gillespie county

Because poverty is not a crime.

CALL: 512-637-5220    |   VISIT: 314 E. Highland Mall, Suite 204, ATX 78752