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Court Appointed Attorney Representation
Indigent Defense is covered in Iowa Code section 815.9. A person is entitled to an attorney appointed by the court if the defendant is entitled to an attorney (Iowa Constitution art. I section 10- "in all criminal prosecutions and in cases involving life, or liberty of an individual, the accused shall have the right…to have assistance of counsel", and prosecutions is defined in Iowa Code section 801.4(13) as "from commencement by filing a complaint to final judgment on behalf of the state, which includes cost judgments after acquittal." State v. Dudley, 766 N.W.2d 606,618 (Iowa 2009).
and the person has one of the following qualifications:
1. Person has an income level at or below 125% of the U.S. poverty level as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (unless the court determines the defendant can pay the cost.) The court considers income, assets subject to execution and nature of the charge. Iowa Code 815.9(a).
a. The income levels for the 125% level are published in the Federal Register . For 2011, the income levels by size of family to qualify are:
i. 1- $13,613
ii. 2- $18,388
iii. 3- $23,163
iv. 4- $27,938
v. 5- $32,713
vi. 6- $37,488
vii. 7- $42,263
viii. 8- $47,038
ix. For each individual over 8 add- $4775
2. Person has an income level greater than 125% of poverty level but at or below 200% and the court determines that not appointing counsel would cause a person substantial hardship. The court considers income, assets subject to execution, and nature of charge. Iowa Code 815.9(b).
a. The income levels for 200% are published in the Federal Register . For 2011, the income levels by size of family to qualify are:
iv. 4- $44,700
v. 5- $52,340
vi. 6- $59,980
vii. 7- $67,620
viii. 8- $75,260
ix. For each individual over 8 add $7640
3. Person with income level greater than 200% of poverty level unless charged with a felony and the court determines that not appointing counsel would cause a substantial hardship to the defendant. Iowa Code 815.9(c).
Even if the income level is above these levels, you should consider applying for a court appointed attorney anyway as the calculation of income may be different from your calculation. Additionally, the attorney will cost much less than private pay, and no retainer will be required up front.
The defendant can request a particular attorney, however, the selection is up to the court. The defendant can add "Request (name of attorney)" to the application. The attorney needs to have signed a contract with the State Public Defender, selecting the counties that he/she is available in, and then needs to be on the local county list.
The defendant is required to reimburse the state for the cost of the attorney, transcripts, witness fees, expenses and other goods and services provided by the legal assistance. If the case is a criminal case, all costs and fees are due no later than sentencing or if acquitted or dismissed 30 days from the date of acquittal or dismissal. Iowa Code section 815.9(4). If the case is other than a criminal case, all costs and fees are due not later than 10 days from the date of the court ruling, trial, or dismissal. Iowa Code section 815.9(5).
If the costs and fees are not paid as stated above, the court shall order payment and fees in reasonable installments. Iowa Code section 815.9(7). If the defendant has employment, an assignment of wages is executed. Iowa Code section 815.9(8).
If the defendant is acquitted, the court may not constitutionally order a defendant to repay court-appointed attorney fees unless he has the ability to pay them or will be able to pay them in the future considering his financial resources. State v. Dudley, 766 N.W.2d 606 (Iowa 2009) quoting Olson v. James, 603 F.2d 150, 155 (10th Cir. 1979). Before imposing an obligation to reimburse the state, the court must make a finding that the defendant is or will be able to pay the reimbursement amount ordered. State v. Dudley, 766 N.W.2d 606, 615 (Iowa 2009). The Supreme Court has stated that a State may not impose unduly harsh or discriminatory terms merely because the obligation is to the public treasury rather than to a private creditor. James v. Strange, 407 U.S. 128, 138 (1972).
Additionally, the cost judgment of a defendant represented by a contract attorney may not exceed the fee limitations represented by the public defender without creating a violation of the defendant’s right to equal protection of the law. State v. Dudley at 622. Thus, a hearing is required to determine whether the acquitted defendant can pay the fees.