Paying for your Public Defender

In the movie, Lethal Weapon 4, Chris Rock tells an alleged criminal, “You got the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney we’ll provide you with the dumbest fuckin’ lawyer on earth.”

They might not provide the alleged criminal with the dumbest lawyer, but they probably won’t provide any lawyer without charging the accused for his public defender. This is a new trend and most states at least have some kind of user fees, application fees or other fees. The public defenders mostly agree with this charge because they are so overworked and underpaid. And in fact, NPR, in All Things Considered with Robert Siegel on May 20, 2014 states that “they can eventually be charged the full cost of their representation”–and that can run thousands of dollars.

The court system is charging the accused (who most likely is in poverty) instead of paying the charge through state taxes. The government allocates very little money to public defenders. How then can a person get a fair trial? Shapiro states, “There’d been cuts in state and city funding for the entire criminal justice system.” So courts are turning more and more to these user fees that the accused cannot pay.

What happened to the Constitution? What happened to Chris Rock’s words, “If you can’t afford an attorney we’ll provide you the with dumbest fuckin’ lawyer on earth.” That’s not even true. The Supreme Court in 1963 ruled that indigent, criminal defendants have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you.

It is unbelievable the way we treat those in poverty.