Snyder’s budget includes $48M for defending poor

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal sets aside $48 million for the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, which works to make sure criminal defendants get representation regardless of their financial status.

Courts and counties statewide are working on plans to better protect the constitutional rights of poor defendants. Plans are required to meet four new standards, including:

  • Minimum education and training, including continuing education for lawyers assigned to represent the poor.
  • Lawyers must interview a jailed client within 72 hours of being appointed and as soon as possible if the client is not in jail. Courts and jails must provide a confidential meeting space for lawyers and their clients.
  • Lawyers must use experts and investigators when appropriate.
  • Defendants have the right to counsel clients at all critical stages of the case, including during their initial court appearance and arraignment.

The commission says the new standards are the minimum required to give poor defendants a constitutional level of legal representation.

Statewide, the initial plans to implement programs meeting the standards totaled $87 million in new spending. That money is required to come from the state budget. In February, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission sent most of the proposals back for review and expects the resubmitted plans will lower the overall cost of implementation.

However, nobody is sure exactly what the final total will be. Snyder’s budget proposal, which was presented to lawmakers Wednesday, calls for them to approve $48,420,700 for communities to implement the new rules.

The Indigent Defense Commission plans to meet and go over the revised plans. As they are OK’d, the commission will send funding requests to the Michigan Legislature, which has to approve the funding.