Thursday, June 24, 2010

You're Innocent Until Proven Guilty, but Copies of the Evidence, Now That's Gonna Cost You!

The Salt Lake County DA wants you to pay her for copies of the evidence she is going to use against you.   Since you are innocent until proven guilty how is it you have to pay for copies of the evidence?  This is from Stephen Hunt's article at the Salt Lake City Tribune:

"Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller's controversial fees charged to criminal defendants for police reports, photographs, videotapes and witness interviews were struck down last week by a 3rd District Court judge.  Judge Robert Adkins ruled such 'discovery' costs must be determined by the county auditor, not by Miller. Adkins called Miller's list of charges an 'improperly adopted discovery fee schedule.'

Defense attorney Susanne Gustin had challenged the fees on behalf of her client, Steven Edward Kimball, who is charged with second-degree felony child abuse for allegedly injuring his 12-year-old stepson by putting duct tape around his head then ripping the tape off.  Gustin said Friday she may request that the judge make the Kimball decision applicable to all Salt Lake County criminal cases.  Kent Hart, executive director of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said he hopes Miller will simply accept the judge's ruling in connection with other cases.

'It would be foolish of them [the District Attorney's Office] to ignore it and say it applies only to that one case,' Hart said. 'The result, if they ignore Adkins' ruling, will be to force every defense attorney who has to pay discovery fees to litigate this issue.'

Miller had no comment about the applicability of the decision to other criminal cases, according to office spokesman Mark Biljanic, who said Miller will consider whether to mount an appeal.

In any case, Biljanic insisted, the fee issue will disappear in about four months when the District Attorney's Office goes electronic and eliminates the need to make paper copies.  The fee schedule was adopted by the Salt Lake County Council last June. Miller began charging attorneys in September.  A number of defense attorneys have voiced concerns about the constitutionality of charging criminal defendants to obtain the evidence brought against them."
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Most criminal defense attorneys are pretty threadbare operators, in my experience, charging these professionals for living up to the highest ideals of our justice system with the questionable ability to obtain reimbursement sounds utterly obnoxious to me.  And as we see over and over again unless your prosecution is constitutionally appropriate society loses, the taxpayers lose.  This practice is penny wise and pound foolish.

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