Although a person charged with any criminal offense has the right to retain counsel to represent him or her at a summary proceeding, most defendants charged with minor misdemeanors are not represented by counsel.
A principal reason is the expense of retaining a lawyer, which may exceed the fine imposed.
In Scott v. Illinois (1980), the Supreme Court said that indigent persons do not have a right to counsel at public expense unless they are actually sentenced to jail.
Pretrial Process in Cases of Felonies / Major Misdemeanors
There are elaborate pretrial procedures in these cases:
The Grand Jury
The Preliminary Hearing
These procedures are important components of the administration of justice because the great majority of all criminal cases are resolved at this stage and never go to trial.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, grand juries hand down indictments against persons as requested by prosecutors, leading some to question the utility of the grand jury procedure as a means of guarding against arbitrary or unwarranted prosecution.
Prosecutor’s Duty to Disclose Exculpatory Evidence
The Supreme Court has stated that “the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to the accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.”