Since the funding for public defenders is down and many public defenders are given too heavy of a workload, determining who truly qualifies based on data that comes from sources other than the defendants seems like a no-brainer.
(AP) St. Paul In an attempt to get the caseloads of public defenders under control and rein in what's seen as growing abuse of the system, Dakota County has implemented a screening program where criminal defendants must prove they're poor enough to qualify for a public attorney. The screenings, which include interviews and random credit checks, are designed to reduce caseloads and create uniform rules to determine who gets free or low-cost legal representation.
Previously, judges in Dakota County made this decision alone, based on a financial disclosure form filled out by defendants.
My only concern is whether the criteria matches the reality of what it means to not be able to afford an attorney. Too often changes that are made to ensure that no one can cheat the system ensure unfairness for many who fit the overall criteria, in this case being unable to afford a reputable attorney.
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