County commission extends public defense contracts to accept bids from attorneys
A gaggle of attorneys attended the final Carbon Commission meeting of the year, hoping to secure the county's public defense contracts for 2005.
In total, $180,000 will be allocated to all aspects of public defense in Carbon County, including adult and juvenile criminal cases, conflicts and civil matters.
Samuel Chiara, David Allred and McKett Allred are currently handling the county's public defense caseload and have been asked to extend contracts until the issue can be decided.
Because of the overwhelming interest in the contracts, the county commissioners decided to postpone a decision until the Jan. 19 regular meeting, giving all interested parties time to prepare a bid.
"I think what we need to do since everybody is interested is take a step back and have everybody resubmit a proposal," pointed out Carbon Commissioner Mike Milovich.
According to the Utah court rules of criminal procedure, a defendant charged with a public offense has the right to self representation and, if indigent, has the right to court-appointed counsel if the defendant faces a substantial probability of deprivation of liberty.
In addition, in all cases in which counsel is appointed to represent an indigent individual charged with an offense for which the punishment may be death, the court shall appoint two or more attorneys to represent the defendant. Under the statutory guidelines, the court shall make a finding on the record based on the requirements set forth below that appointed counsel is proficient in the trial of capital cases, states the criminal procedure rules.
The Indigent Defense Act of the Utah Code considers an indigent person to be an individual who:
Does not have sufficient income, assets, credit or other means to provide for the payment of legal counsel and all necessary expenses of representation without depriving themselves or their families of food, shelter, clothing and other necessities.
Has an income level at or less than 150 percent of the United States poverty level.
Has not transferred or otherwise disposed of any assets since the commission of the alleged offense with the intent of establishing eligibility for the appointment of counsel.
However, if during the course of the trial, the individual's circumstances undergo any financial changes that might affect the determination of eligibility for indigency, it is the defendant's responsibility to notify the court, continues the defense act.
"If the trial court finds within one year after the determination of indigency that any defendant was erroneously or improperly determined to be indigent, the county or municipality may proceed against that defendant for the reasonable value of the services rendered to the defendant, including all costs paid by the county or municipality in providing the defense counsel," states the Utah Code. "Any person who intentionally or knowingly makes a material false statement or omits a material fact in an affidavit for indigency is guilty of a class B misdemeanor."
Residents also retain the right to represent themselves in court. However, the Utah rules of criminal procedure indicate that self-representation is a significant decision.
"Those who chose to represent themselves in court, called 'pro se litigants', act as their own attorney and are, therefore ,accountable for the information presented to the court as well as the final judgment decided by the court," specifies the Utah rules of criminal procedure.