Defendants in criminal cases have the right to a court-appointed public defender if 1) they are indigent, and 2) their liberty is at risk. The proposed legislation would mandate a public defender continue representation for all proceedings, some of which would be post-conviction wherein there is no risk to an individual’s liberty, e.g. expungements, probation terminations and reviews.Comment on this story
The proposed legislation, SB32, includes significant changes specific to the Juvenile Court Act. All minors will be appointed a public defender for all proceedings, regardless of household income. Second, the juvenile judge could order a parent to pay recoupment for the use of a public defender, although there is no method or procedure for determining household income. These proposed changes are incongruent with current law and the legislation does not seek to amend it. Juvenile courts are not allowed to order recoupment for, and the 29 counties in Utah have no local ordinances to enforce such an order.
While it might sound like a good idea at first, and it may be a good idea in the future, the costs to taxpayers have not been consider. Moreover, Utah citizens should be wary of any legislative action to change constitutional rights. SB32 does exactly this.