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Additional public defender fees without hearing affirmed

July 25, 2014

A man who appealed a court order that he pay fees in excess of the statutory public defender fee capped at $100 lost his appeal, though one judge said the trial court must hold a hearing on the defendant’s ability to pay.

Michael B. Eliseo pleaded guilty to Class D felony receiving stolen property and was sentenced to three years in prison with nine months executed. In addition to the public defender fee of $100, Wells Circuit Judge Kenton Kiracofe ordered Eliseo to pay a supplemental public defender service fee of $300 and $166 in court costs.

In Michael B. Eliseo v. State of Indiana, 90A04-1307-CR-370 Judge Melissa May wrote that even though no hearing was conducted nor findings issued by the trial court, the court did not abuse its discretion since additional fees may be collected under I.C. 33-40-3-6 or I.C. 33-37-2-3.

“The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it did not conduct a hearing on Eliseo’s ability to pay fees because he was not required to pay until after he was released from incarceration,” May wrote. “Also, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered him to pay a $300.00 public defender fee because the amount was within the statutory limit.”

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred with May’s opinion, and Judge Patricia Riley concurred in result but wrote separately of the need for the trial court to conduct a hearing.

“(C)ontingent upon the trial court conducting a hearing when the fees are due and making a specific finding of Eliseo’s ability to pay, I find no abuse of discretion in its imposition of public defender fees in the amount of $300 and court costs in the amount of $166,” Riley wrote.

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