Our team assists clients with both misdemeanor and felony-level criminal cases. We seek to supplement and not duplicate the services provided by the Missouri State Public Defender System. However, that system is underfunded and under-resourced. Each year hundreds, if not thousands, of St. Louisans do not qualify for representation by a public defender, yet are too poor to afford private counsel.
The right to counsel is a fundamental component of the due process of law in criminal cases. In Gideon v. Wainwright, the United States Supreme Court held that indigent defendants had a fundamental constitutional right to counsel.
Unfortunately, Missouri has consistently fallen short of implementing Gideon’s “promise”. The staff and resources necessary to ensure adequate representation to all poor persons accused of crimes have never kept pace with the growing complexity and volume of criminal litigation, and Missouri courts have done little to maintain proper standards of performance by indigent defense counsel.
ACD attempts to fill that gap, to the degree possible, and to learn through that representation of the accused where the failures in the criminal legal system exist and how to challenge them.
Our team assists clients with matters like landlord-tenant disputes and eviction defense, consumer protection cases, divorce, custody and visitation rights, public benefits applications and appeals, immigration bond proceedings and assistance with elder law issues like wills, powers of attorney, guardianships, and conservatorships.
We integrate civil and criminal legal representation to alleviate the collateral consequences that occur when an individual enters the criminal legal system.
- These consequences can include:
- Denial or termination of subsidized housing, public benefits, and parental rights
- Deportation of lawful permanent residents
- Loss of income
- Fewer employment opportunities
- Additional barriers to education and government-originated student loans
These consequences can be imposed regardless of the severity of the underlying criminal case. Without skilled representation, even a misdemeanor can have profound and irreparable effects on our clients’ lives.
The municipal courts in Missouri are considered courts of limited jurisdiction. That means they handle only certain kinds of offenses, usually appearing minor in nature. Those offenses include, but are not limited to, motor vehicle violations, minor nonviolent offenses, building code violations, and minor drug offenses.
Even traffic violations can result in costly fines, sharp increases in automobile insurance premiums, the suspension of driving privileges, and possible incarceration if a court date is missed. ACD provides holistic defense on these charges and uses the law to protect against illegal detention and over ticketing practices and to advocate for the reduction or elimination of fines and fees for our indigent clients.