As we approach the 50th anniversary of the landmark right to counsel decision in Gideon v. Wainwright we should take a close look at the funding of the criminal justice system.
The rates for court appointed attorneys in criminal conflict cases has remained largely unchanged for 30 years. What are Florida's current mandated conflict counsel fees in criminal cases? Those fees are set out in Florida Statute Section 27.5304, F.S. and the General Appropriations Act which I listed below.
Let me give you one example - the attorney is paid $2,500 for a first degree murder case not involving the death penalty. Yes, you read that correctly - two thousand five hundred dollars for a first degree murder case.
The Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA) is required by the 2012 General Appropriations Act to conduct a study of the reasonableness of the current mandated conflict counsel fees in criminal cases. According to an e-mail sent out by Derek Byrd, FACDL President, the study will be submitted to the Florida Legislature by January 15, 2013.
What are the Statutory Maximum Fees for Court Appointed Counsel in Florida?
The statutory maximum fees are outlined in Florida Statute 27.5304. The maximum allowable fees pursuant to the General Appropriations Act are contained in Ch. 2012-118 Line Item 829. Florida Statute Section 27.5304 (5)(a) provides that the compensation for representation by an attorney in a criminal proceeding shall not exceed the following:
- For misdemeanors and juveniles represented at the trial level: $1,000.
- For noncapital, nonlife felonies represented at the trial level: $2,500.
- For life felonies represented at the trial level: $3,000.
- For capital cases represented at the trial level: $15,000. For purposes of this subparagraph, a “capital case” is any offense for which the potential sentence is death and the state has not waived seeking the death penalty.
- For representation on appeal: $2,000.
POSTCONVICTION - Rules 3.850 and 3.800, Fla.R.Crim. Proc. - $1,000
CAPITAL - 1ST DEGREE MURDER (LEAD COUNSEL)- $15,000
CAPITAL - 1ST DEGREE MURDER (CO-COUNSEL)- $15,000
CAPITAL - 1ST DEGREE MURDER (NON-DEATH)- $2,500
CAPITAL SEXUAL BATTERY- $2,000
CAPITAL APPEALS- $2,000
CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS- $400
CRIMINAL TRAFFIC- $400
FELONY - LIFE- $2,500
FELONY - PUNISHABLE BY LIFE- $2,000
FELONY 1ST DEGREE- $1,500
FELONY 2ND DEGREE- $1,000
FELONY 3RD DEGREE- $750
FELONY OR MISDEMEANOR - NO INFORMATION FILED- $400
FELONY APPEALS- $1,500
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY - 1ST DEGREE FELONY- $600
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY - 2ND DEGREE- $400
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY - 3RD DEGREE- $300
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY - FELONY LIFE- $700
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY - MISDEMEANOR- $300
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY - DIRECT FILE OR NO PETITION FILED- $300
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY APPEALS- $1,000
MISDEMEANOR APPEALS- $750
VIOLATION OF PROBATION - FELONY (INCLUDES VOCC)- $500
VIOLATION OF PROBATION - MISDEMEANOR (INCLUDES VOCC)- $300
VIOLATION OF PROBATION (VOCC) JUVENILE DELINQUENCY- $300
What can you say about a system that pays $2,500 for a first-degree murder case?