Criminal Justice Section  


Criminal Justice Magazine
Winter 2004
Volume 18 Number 4

Letters to the Editor

At Bail Representation

Thomas G. Becker
State Public Defender
Des Moines, Iowa

I read with interest Professor Colbert’s article. ( See Douglas Colbert, Courts “Bail” Out on Gideon : Detainees Face Hearings Alone, 18:3, Crim. Just. 32, (Fall 2003).)  I cannot dispute his thesis that “most poor people arrested today still do not have a lawyer at one of the most critical junctures of their entry into the legal system,” that is, hearings on bail and trial release determination. However, I would like to correct at least one error of omission by Professor Colbert—he should have included Iowa on his short list of states that “uniformly ensure a defense lawyer’s advocacy” at this stage.

An initial decision on bail or pretrial release is made at an Iowa defendant’s initial appearance, where an indigent defendant applies for appointment of counsel. In some Iowa courthouses, public defenders cover initial appearances and are able to advocate for appropriate bail or pretrial release immediately upon appointment. In other locations, public defenders or assigned counsel undertake advocacy on pretrial release issues promptly upon appointment. Bail review hearings are part and parcel of public defenders’ representation. In cases handled by assigned counsel, my office approves fee claims for pretrial release advocacy as a matter of course.

I suspect you may be hearing from some of my chief defender colleagues informing you their states also provide this valuable service to indigents. In any case, please add Iowa to the list.

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