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Court rules on public defender fee imposition

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has decided that a state statute’s indigency hearing requirement doesn’t apply when a defendant has entered into a cash bail-bond agreement, meaning a trial court can use that bond money to pay court costs such as the imposed public defender fee.

A unanimous ruling came Friday in Lisa R. Wright v. State of Indiana, No. 57A03-1010-CR-570, affirming a ruling by the Noble Circuit Court.

Wright had pleaded guilty to Class B felony methamphetamine dealing and posted a cash bail-bond agreement pursuant to Indiana Code 35-33-8-3.2(a)(2), depositing 10 percent of the $10,000 bond. The agreement said the trial court could use that money to pay fines, fees, and costs in the event she failed to show up or was convicted. She requested and was appointed a public defender and ended up pleading guilty and receiving a six-year sentence. The court subsequently ordered that the escrow money from what she’d paid for bond be used to pay various costs, such as the $100 public defender fee.

On appeal, Wright argued the trial court didn’t explicitly find that she could pay the fee imposed and that it hadn’t held a hearing to determine whether she was actually indigent. The state argued that she ignored the fact that the public defender fee was paid from the $1,000 bond, per the agreement she’d entered.

The appellate panel looked at the state statutes, and determined the trial court didn’t err in how it used the money without a holding a hearing because Wright had entered into a contract through the agreement and that stood.

Though Wright cited a 2006 case from the intermediate appellate court, this panel found that state statute had been amended since to specifically allow for trial judges to do what happened in Wright’s case.

“A plain reading of Section 35-33-8-3.2(a)(2) as amended leads us to the conclusion that the absence of language requiring an indigency hearing means that when a bail bond agreement is executed, such a hearing is not required,” the court wrote.

“Moreover, to impose the hearing requirement of Section 33-37-2-3(a) where a defendant executed an agreement pursuant to Section 35-33-8-3.2(a)(2), would render the bail bond agreement meaningless. In addition, this Court has recognized that when a defendant posts a cash bail bond pursuant to Indiana Code Section 35-33-8-3.2, the trial court has authority to impose public defender costs.”

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  1. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  2. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

  3. I am one of Steele's victims and was taken for $6,000. I want my money back due to him doing nothing for me. I filed for divorce after a 16 year marriage and lost everything. My kids, my home, cars, money, pension. Every attorney I have talked to is not willing to help me. What can I do? I was told i can file a civil suit but you have to have all of Steelers info that I don't have. Of someone can please help me or tell me what info I need would be great.

  4. It would appear that news breaking on Drudge from the Hoosier state (link below) ties back to this Hoosier story from the beginning of the recent police disrespect period .... MCBA president Cassandra Bentley McNair issued the statement on behalf of the association Dec. 1. The association said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. “The MCBA does not believe this was a just outcome to this process, and is disheartened that the system we as lawyers are intended to uphold failed the African-American community in such a way,” the association stated. “This situation is not just about the death of Michael Brown, but the thousands of other African-Americans who are disproportionately targeted and killed by police officers.” http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2016/07/18/hate-cops-sign-prompts-controversy/87242664/

  5. What form or who do I talk to about a d felony which I hear is classified as a 6 now? Who do I talk to. About to get my degree and I need this to go away it's been over 7 years if that helps.

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