On March 18, 1963, the United States Supreme Court guaranteed the right to counsel to indigent defendants in criminal cases in the landmark case, Gideon v. Wainwright. On July 1, 1971, the Maryland Legislature created the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (OPD). OPD opened its doors in 1972 and is an independent state agency. A Board of Trustees, composed of 13 members, studies, observes and advises on the operation of the public defender system. The Board appoints the Public Defender who serves a six-year term.
DISTRICT TRIAL OFFICES
OPD has at least 1 district office in each county and Baltimore City. The District Trial Divisions provide felony, misdemeanor, traffic and juvenile delinquency defense for any offense where incarceration or detention is a possible penalty. Stages of representation include: arraignments, bail review, preliminary hearings, pre-trial motions, trial/disposition, sentencing/adjudication, motions to modify, and violations of probation and parole.
CLIENT - REPRESENTATION DIVISIONS
OPD also has 4 divisions that provide direct client representation in different proceedings. The Appellate Division provides representation on direct appeals of criminal, juvenile and children in need of assistance (CINA) cases. The Post Conviction Defenders Division provides representation on post conviction petitions, parole revocation hearings, and writs of actual innocence. The Parental Defense Division protects parental rights in CINA and termination of parental rights (TPR) proceedings when children are removed from the home. The Mental Health Division provides representation to those who are involuntarily committed to mental health hospitals across the state and to those found not criminally responsible (NCR) and incompetent to stand trial (IST). The Innocence Project (IP) works in collaboration with the University of Baltimore School of Law and screens over 200 cases annually to assess whether an inmate claiming innocence may have a viable wrongful conviction claim. IP litigates viable innocence claims through all stages of the process.
LITIGATION SUPPORT DIVISIONS
OPD has 5 specialized divisions that directly support our public defenders with their cases and clients -- Forensics, Forensic Mental Health, Immigration, Innocence Project, Juvenile Protection, Social Work.