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last week tonight

John Oliver exposes the sorry state of America’s public-defender system

You might have the right to an attorney, but that attorney won’t have time to carefully consider your case.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


We never thought we’d say this, but shows like Law & Order might not be completely accurate.

In the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver tackled a glaring problem with the Miranda rights we know so well from those crime shows: the right to an attorney. While everyone technically does have the right to call on a public defender if they can’t afford their own lawyer, those public defenders are often so overworked that they can barely even look at your case.

In some states, individual lawyers can expect to see more than a thousand cases cross their desk every year. And to make matters worse, defendants can sometimes be billed for the legal fees they previously assumed were covered by government funds.

After his segments on mandatory minimums and civil forfeiture, John Oliver is single-handedly making us terrified of the U.S. legal system. If nothing else, this is a bracing start to the week.

Screengrab via Last Week Tonight/YouTube

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The Daily Dot