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Published on Friday, January 18, 2013

Modifying the definition of indigent defense and ability to pay

SB 5020, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon (D-Potlatch) and Sen. Carrell (R-Lakewood), modifies the definition of indigent in relation to a person who cannot meet the costs or anticipated costs of counsel for a matter before the court. A little background: a person has a constitutional right to counsel, and counsel must be provided to a person who cannot afford to retain representation. Right now, the term indigent can mean one of four things: receiving certain types of public assistance, involuntarily committed to public mental health, receiving annual income of 125% or less of the current federally established poverty level, or unable to pay the costs for counsel based on his or her available funds. This bill changes the language to define indigent as being unable to pay the anticipated costs, and indicates that the court may consider the other criteria listed above. It still maintains that a person can be considered indigent yet be able to contribute and pay a portion of the costs. This bill is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Law & Justice Committee at 1:30pm on January 21.

Categories: Law & justice