Easier To Get A Public Defender – 2018 Oklahoma Laws #13

hire attorney oklahoma cityThis law removes the posting of a bond as a rebuttable presumption that the defendant is not indigent. Now, if a defendant is admitted to bail and the defendant, or another person on behalf of the defendant, posts a bond (other than by personal recognizance) the court may consider that in determining whether the defendant is eligible for a public defender/OIDS appointed counsel. Such consideration may not be the sole factor in the determination of eligibility. This means the court must now look at other factors to determine whether someone is eligible for a public defender. It’s now the intent of the Oklahoma Legislature that a criminal defendant be entitled to an individualized determination of bail as guaranteed by the Oklahoma Constitution.

This is a great update to our law. Indigent defendants get bailed out all the time by friends and family members. Or, maybe all the defendant had left was the $100 needed to bail out. I’ve seen defendants threatened by judges countless times with going back to jail if they didn’t hire a private attorney that day. They will tell the defendant that they bailed out, so they’re not entitled to a public defender. They’re told that the only way they can get a public defender is to go back to jail. Defendants often beg the judge for mercy and tell them how they don’t have any money–it’s a relative or friend who bailed them out. Unsympathetic judges will then throw the defendant in jail if they don’t come back with a private attorney.

The flip side of this legislation is the pressure that this will put on public defenders and appointed counsel under the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS). This legislation doesn’t call for more funding of PDs/OIDs attorneys. There will undoubtedly be more people requesting and getting public defenders. This will lead to an even greater caseload on overburdened attorneys. Public defenders are some of the best attorneys you will find. However, they simply don’t have enough time to dedicate to each case than a private attorney typically has.

Sources: SB 1021, 19 O.S. § 138.5, 22 O.S. § 1355A, & 20 O.S. § 55

Arrested in Oklahoma? Call Oklahoma criminal defense attorney Frank Urbanic in OKC at 405-633-3420.

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