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COA vacates public defender, probation fees for indigent man

September 21, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals has vacated an order for a man convicted of public intoxication and found to be indigent to pay more than $600 in public defender and probation fees.

Andre Coleman was arrested on June 13, 2015, for public intoxication after Indianapolis Airport Police found him asleep in his car and under the influence of alcohol along the airport’s North Access Road. Coleman failed multiple field sobriety tests before his arrest.

After the Marion Superior Court found Coleman to be indigent, the court appointed an attorney at public expense to represent Coleman with no reimbursement requirement. He was convicted of Class B misdemeanor public intoxication in September 2015 and was ordered to serve 365 days in jail with 363 days suspended to probation and to take an alcohol and drug treatment class.

The trial court found Coleman indigent as to fines and costs, but when Coleman asked if he would have to pay for the alcohol and drug treatment class, the court responded “Yes, yeah” without inquiring about his financial situation. The court also did not list a public defender fee or any other court costs or fees in its sentencing order. The order listed his total monetary obligation as $0, and the order of probation did not designate an amount owed for probation user fees.

However, one day after sentencing, Coleman was charged with $640 in court fees, including a $50 supplemental public defender fee and a $250 fee for the drug and alcohol services, which he appealed.

In Andre C. Coleman v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1511-CR-1999, the Court of Appeals vacated all fees against Coleman, writing that the imposition of the $50 public defender fee appeared to be an error on the part of the probation department and that the trial court never actually imposed that fee on Coleman in either its sentencing order or its order of probation.

Similarly, the Court of Appeals wrote that the record did not show that the Marion Superior Court imposed the probation fees, but that the trial court had said at the sentencing hearing that Coleman would be found indigent as to fines and costs. Thus, the Court of appeals vacated Coleman’s probation fees and remanded to the trial court to hold an indigency hearing.

Finally, the Court of Appeals also vacated the $250 fee imposed on Coleman, pending an indigency hearing. If the hearing shows that Coleman is able to pay the probation fees, then the trial court will be instructed to correct the order to reflect that Coleman owes $150 for the alcohol and drug services, corresponding with his Class B misdemeanor conviction. The $250 fee would only be imposed for a Class A misdemeanor.

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