COA Sets Forth the Due Process Defendant Must Be Given When County Seeks Reimbursement for Court Appointed Counsel

Overwhelmingly, criminal defendants are represented by court appointed counsel. Many counties have sought reimbursement for such fees. Three years ago, the Michigan Legislature codified this practice with MCL 769.1k which provided that after conviction, the Court may make the Defendant pay for any costs or the expenses associated with the defendant’s legal representation.

People v Trapp, Court of Appeals No. 282662, the Court of Appeals answered the question about what a court is supposed to do when the Defendant claims that he does not have the means to pay this fee.

In Trapp, on request the Court ruled that the Court must look at the Defendant’s ability to pay. Unfortunately, the Court ruled in the last paragraph that a hearing was not required and the Court could rely on an updated presentence report.

Trapp is disturbing because most countries do not disclose the presentence report until moments before sentencing. Trapp is yet another reason why Michigan should adopt the federal practice of providing the reports to counsel ten days before sentencing and allowing counsel the opportunity to file written objections to the reports.

The other item which went undiscussed in Trapp is the fact that the parties were talking about $300. It will probably costs Berrien County thousands to collect this paltry sum.