Thanks to court officials for stopping freeloaders

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 29, 2002

Apparently, being charged with a major crime doesn’t matter thatmuch anymore.

That’s the feeling we get after last week’s circuit courtsession in which hardly any defendants bothered to show up withtheir own legal representation. They, instead, came with open handswanting the court to appoint them legal counsel.

The law correctly guarantees those charged with a crime theright to have legal representation if they can’t afford an attorneyon their own.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Several defendants last week, though, sounded like they couldpay for an attorney; they just didn’t take the time to try and findone. It’s not fair for law-abiding taxpayers to foot the bill forsomeone who’s just too lazy to get their own lawyer.

We applaud the offices of Judges Mike Smith and Keith Starrettand Public Defender Lesa Baker in their efforts to crack down onthe perceived “free ride” of court-appointed legal representation.While still assigning cases to the defender’s office, Smith said hewould take defendants’ employment or financial situations intoconsideration when determining how much in attorneys’ fees theywill pay if convicted.

Citizens with means often pay dearly for legal counsel when theyare charged with crimes, regardless of whether they’re convicted orfound not guilty. Defendants with below-average means, but stillable to pay, should feel a proportionate amount of pain.

Being charged with a crime, especially a felony, is seriousbusiness. Court officials have promised no free ride, but having anappointed lawyer shouldn’t be an easy ride either.