State Supreme Court says defendants must have attorney before indictment

The state Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant must have an attorney, whether hired or appointed, before that person is indicted.

The revision to the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure was adopted Thursday during the court’s session in Jackson.

Presiding Justice James W. Kitchens said the change came as a result for public comment in February on proposed amendments to the rules.

The changes call for continuing representation. Previous to this change, a public defender would be appointed for a defendant before indictment, but that attorney could withdraw once those hearings were done.

Now, council has to be retained and if a public defender asks to withdraw from a case, new counsel must be retained or appointed before previous counsel can withdraw.

Also, in cases where the death penalty can be imposed, two attorneys must be appointed by the court. In non-death penalty cases, multiple attorneys can be appointed at the discretion of the court.

The move is intended to keep defendants from lingering in jail while waiting for a public defender to be appointed to a case.

The amendment to the Rules of Criminal Procedure take effect on July 1, 2023.

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