Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Criminal Justice for Fun and Profit.

The esteemed Sen. Shockley has proposed SB 263 which deals with the imposition of Public Defender fees.
I see this as having a tremendously chilling effect on the rights of the poor to plead and maintain their innocence. The gist of the fees in part are:

(5) THE COURT SHALL INCLUDE PUBLIC DEFENDER COSTS IN THE JUDGMENT AT THE FOLLOWING RATES:
(A) MISDEMEANOR GUILTY PLEA, OTHER THAN A MISDEMEANOR UNDER 61-8-401, 61-8-406, OR 61-8-410, $250;
(B) MISDEMEANOR GUILTY PLEA UNDER 61-8-401, 61-8-406, OR 61-8-410, $500;
(C) MISDEMEANOR TRIAL, $1,000;
(D) FELONY GUILTY PLEA, $1,000; AND
(E) FELONY TRIAL, $1,000 PER DAY OF TRIAL."


Nothing like law enforcement for profit. I wonder if they will go public and sell shares. Would certainly do better than any stocks I have right now.

6 comments:

Aaron Goldberg said...

DUH, 61-8-401, 61-8-406, OR 61-8-410? Our drunk driving laws have always been a profit center. They have nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with boosting revenues for the state and the insurance companies. Let’s be serious. This is really nothing new.

As for piling on court costs and public defender fees for the indigent defendant who pleads guilty, why not? What the hell was he doing with a court-appointed attorney if he was guilty? You need to explain the logic of that.

What is not clear from what you posted are the additional costs for trials. Do these surcharges apply only if the defendant is found guilty? I assume so. But it is not clear.

Aaron Goldberg. said...

On second reading, I see the proposed legislation only applies to public defender fees, not court costs.

Disregard my mention of court costs.

Aaron Goldberg said...

I just read the old law with the proposed amendments. It looks to me like a court could always require defendants to pay public defender costs if the court determined that was just.

So what is new here? That a fixed cost schedule has been proposed? That the rates are too high?

You need to explain what your problem is with this proposed legislation.

Steve said...

My problem is that the indigent defendant appearing before a judge, has the laundry list of fees read to him (with the careful caveat that they may not be imposed) and feeling like he can't afford to have an attorney appointed to him, so he pleads guilty. While the vast majority of people charged may be guilty, they are not necessarily guilty of what they have been charged with. It takes a lawyer to look over the facts, and the law to make sure that the accused is really guilty of anything.
By pleading guilty based on the fear of not being able to afford to maintain his innocence, he will lose, and so will the system that we call justice.

Steve said...

Thinking some more about it - Since the State brings the charges, if a Defendant is found not guilty, how about having the County Attorney fork over the same amounts to the Defendant. Would certainly reduce our case load.

Aaron Goldberg said...

As to your first reply, I don’t see where that situation is any different with defendants who can pay their own way. Many people plead guilty to charges they could have fought but it is just not worth the time and money to them. This is especially so with misdemeanor charges. As you go up the income ladder, I think you will find people hire lawyers more and more and fight the most insignificant charges. Certainly we don’t want defendants doing that on the taxpayer’s account.

As to your second comment, I think in every instance where the state fails to prove its case, the state should reimburse the defendant for every penny he has expended in his defense. If the defendant was represented by a public defender, it’s a wash. The indigent defendant has no right to compensation since he expended nothing on his defense.