Nearly one-third of states require potential indigent defendants to pay application fees when requesting counsel, and almost every state requires defendants to either reimburse the state or make a contribution for representation, according to a new report from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
Researchers examined how states decide who is “too poor” to hire a lawyer, as well as potential roadblocks in place that might deter indigent defendants from requesting counsel.
Sixteen states require preliminary administrative fees, ranging from $10 in New Mexico to $150 in Massachusetts, which also offers the alternative of 15 hours community service instead of the fee.
A $100 “administrative fee” is charged in Delaware, where the public defense system was recently the focus of an extremely critical report by the non-profit Sixth Amendment Center, which said the state fails 'the vast majority.'
Delaware is one of 18 states that consider public assistance or federal needs-based benefits as income when deciding whether a defendant is eligible for assigned counsel, according to the NACDL study.
Read the full report HERE.