- Associated Press - Thursday, October 12, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A civil rights organization is suing two South Carolina towns hoping to require lawyers be made to anyone facing charges in municipal courts that could sent them to jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union says most of South Carolina’s 212 municipal courts don’t give defendants lawyers if they ask for one.

The courts handle misdemeanor matters, but often the punishment is a fine or jail time if the fine can’t be paid.

Thursday’s lawsuit was filed against Bluffton and Beaufort.

Bluffton spokeswoman Debbie Szpanka says the town has a contract with a private lawyer to be a public defender. She says the town tells its judges to tell defendants they have a right to an attorney and one will be provided if they can’t afford it.

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