A couple million indigent defendants in this country face bail hearings each year, and most of them do so without court-appointed lawyers. In two recent companion cases, Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye, the Supreme Court held that the loss of a favorable plea bargain can satisfy the prejudice prong of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. If the Constitution requires effective assistance of counsel to protect plea bargains, it requires the presence of counsel at proceedings that have the capacity to prejudice those bargains. Pretrial detention has the capacity to prejudice a plea bargain because a defendant held on bail will plead guilty when faced with any deal that promises he will serve less time than he expects to wait in jail. Because a bad outcome at a bail hearing can prejudice the defendant in subsequent plea bargaining, bail is now a critical stage.
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