Indigent for Costs
So sometimes you go to a lawyer and you hear a price that is far too expensive for you to afford. However, what if that price could be reduced significantly? Could you still not afford to hire a lawyer? The JAC allows for a person to be declared indigent for costs. What this means is that while you can afford the representation by the lawyer, you can’t afford the costs associated with hiring experts, or costs associated with getting documents examined, or forensic work, etc. In other words, you pay for the lawyer, but the JAC pays for the other costs. These other costs can be quite large in many circumstances. For example, many experts charge in excess of $1,000 just to look over discovery. Some experts charge several thousand dollars just to give you an idea as to what they could testify to. Having them analyze the data can be time consuming and quite expensive, especially where the discovery is large. Take a look at the exact language from JAC:
The affidavit on attorney fees should include the source of the fees and the estimated amount of those fees. If the attorney is representing the defendant on multiple cases, the affidavit should list all of those cases and the fees to be paid in those cases as well. In cases in which the attorney is billing hourly, the affidavit should indicate the hourly rate and the anticipated fee that the attorney would receive for the case. The affidavit should also indicate the amount of any retainer or fees already paid in the matter.
In cases in which the attorney is receiving a flat fee, the affidavit should indicate the amount of the flat fee. If the attorney has not received the entire flat fee, it can be helpful to include the amount currently received and the manner in which the remaining fee will be paid. The manner in which the fee is being paid may be material information for the court to consider. For example, a flat fee of $25,000 of which $5,000 has been paid and the balance is being paid in monthly installments of $1,000 may be considered by the court to be substantially different from a flat fee of $25,000 which has been paid in its entirety.
The date which the fees were paid may also be material. If the fees were paid a substantial time prior to the proceedings, this may impact whether the defendant is found indigent for costs particularly if the attorney has already performed significant work on the case. If the attorney has already earned the entire fee or substantial portion thereof, this may impact whether the defendant is indigent at the time the motion is heard. See Mansfield v. State, 16 So. 3d 302, 303 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009) (indicating that the determination of whether a defendant is indigent is based on current circumstances).
If the source of the fees is another person, then the court cannot consider the assets of the person providing the fees. With one limited exception, a defendant’s family is not under any obligation to provide additional funding to assist the defendant. See Leon County v. Harmon, 589 So. 2d 429, 430 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991); Guy v. State, 473 So. 2d 234, 234-35 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985); Price v. Mounts, 421 So. 2d 690, 691 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982); Johnson v. Snyder, 417 So. 2d 783, 784 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982). However, this does not prevent the court from considering the amount of the attorney fees particularly where the amount of fees is considerably more than what an appointed counsel would receive for a similar case.