21 October 2003

Minnesota is charging indigent defendants for their attorneys and it's been found unconstitutional.

In Virginia we charge the indigent for costs of the trial (including attorney fees) if they lose the trial. If they don't pay it off (as most cannot) their drivers license is suspended1. Then they are picked up on driving suspended charges and have more fines and jail time. Of course, they still can't pay off the fines and their licenses remain suspended and they are picked up again for driving suspended and get more fines and costs and can't pay those . . . et cetera, et cetera, et cetera . . .

It's not exactly just but I don't know that it is unconstitutional. Maybe I'll raise it in a future trial to see how that question would be answered.

1 Theoretically, they can be hauled back into court and have some or all of any suspended time or suspended fines from their original disposition imposed. However, of the 5 jurisdictions I see fairly regularly only one does this and then only in the district court.

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