Sunday, May 25, 2003

Defending the indigent in Virginia

The Daily Press has this interesting article on the problems with financing the criminal defense of the poor in Virginia. The article notes that "[t]hree separate studies are in the works, all set for release in November or December, which should give state lawmakers plenty to chew on before the General Assembly convenes in January." It also notes that "Virginia limits how much an attorney can receive for representing an indigent defendant, except in capital cases. The maximum for a serious felony charge - one with a possible sentence of more than 20 years - is $1,096. For a misdemeanor in Circuit Court that carries potential jail time, the maximum is $132."

The only way to make money on these cases is volume business, particularly when your client is charged with multiple counts, which is absurd. Anyone who thinks that Virginia lawyers should do more for the poor has never been a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer - I'd like to know how many thousands of hours go uncompensated.

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