Trial court had no statutory authority to impose second public defender fee

The Marion Superior Court abused its discretion in imposing a second supplemental public defender fee on an indigent litigant because it lacked statutory authority to impose the fee, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

After Darren Langdon was charged with Class A misdemeanor battery resulting in bodily injury, the Marion Superior Court found him to be indigent and appointed a public defender to represent him. The trial court also imposed a $50 public defender fee, which Langdon paid in addition to posting a $150 bond.

Langdon was found guilty as charged, was sentenced to time served and was once again found to be indigent for purposes of appointing appellate counsel. However, three days later, the trial court entered an order to Langdon to pay another $50 supplemental public defender fee, citing Indiana Code 33-37-4-1 and -4, and 33-37-5-19 as authority.

On appeal in Darren Dwayne Langdon v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1606-CR-1470, Langdon argued that the imposition of the second fee was an abuse of discretion. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the Marion Superior Court’s order for Langdon to pay the fee.

Judge Rudolph Pyle, writing for the appellate panel, said the specific sections of Indiana Code the court referenced as its authority do not support the imposition of the second fee, and further noted that the trial court offered no other statutory basis for its decision.

There are three statutory provisions that allow a trial court to order reimbursement, Pyle said – Indiana Code 33-35-7-6(a), 33-40-3-6 and 33-37-2-3. However, “Langdon is correct that none of these statutory provisions support the imposition of the second $50 fee,” the judge said.

The case was remanded with instructions to issue an amended sentencing order in Langdon’s case.

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