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SC Court Of Appeals Issues A Great Case For Attorneys and Defendants To Look At

The Link to the Case below shows just how complicated a Criminal Trial Can be for the accused and the attorney!

Anyone who has hired an attorney can certainly testify about just how frustrating it is to come up with the funds to just retain an attorney.  This is all because of the costs of running a law firm and retaining an expert witness. So at the very onset of a legal case, most attorneys try to gauge how much the case is going to “cost’ in in time and expert fees (private investigator, expert witness, and any other costs that undoubtedly arise during the course of litigation).

Not everyone will qualify for “free” help and keep in mind the amount of funds made available to an accused can be capped/have a limited amount placed on the cost to procure it by the Judge.

I bring this case to everyone’s attention because the state does provide some help to cover expenses in a criminal case.

SECTION 17-3-50. Determination of fees for appointed counsel and public defenders; maximum amounts; authorization to exceed maximum; payment for certain services.

(A) When private counsel is appointed pursuant to this chapter and in accordance with a plan of appointment promulgated by the bar of each county, he shall be paid a reasonable fee to be determined on the basis of forty dollars an hour for time spent out of court and sixty dollars an hour for time spent in court. The same hourly rates shall apply in post-conviction proceedings. Compensation shall not exceed three thousand five hundred dollars in a case in which one or more felonies is charged and one thousand dollars in a case in which only misdemeanors are charged. Compensation shall be paid from funds available to the Office of Indigent Defense for the defense of indigents represented by court-appointed, private counsel. The same basis shall be employed to determine the value of services provided by the office of the public defender for purposes of Section 17-3-40 hereof.

(B) Upon a finding in ex parte proceedings that investigative, expert, or other services are reasonably necessary for the representation of the defendant, the court shall authorize the defendant’s attorney to obtain such services on behalf of the defendant and shall order the payment, from funds available to the Office of Indigent Defense, of fees and expenses not to exceed five hundred dollars as the court considers appropriate.

(C) Payment in excess of the hourly rates and limits in subsection (A) or (B) is authorized only if the court certifies, in a written order with specific findings of fact, that payment in excess of the rates is necessary to provide compensation adequate to ensure effective assistance of counsel and payment in excess of the limit is appropriate because the services provided were reasonably and necessarily incurred.

(D) Nothing in this section shall be construed to alter the provisions of Section 17-3-10 concerning those defendants who are entitled to legal representation.

What we need to focus on here in the language “Upon a finding.” Here, the money/funds are not guaranteed. The Judge must find that the funds are needed by the Defendant. This case highlights what the attorney will need to show/prove/articulate to the Judge in order to get the financial help for their client:

An applicant is only entitled to fees to pay for expert witnesses if the applicant shows a need for the expert testimony. Thames v. State, 325 S.C. 9, 11, 478 S.E.2d 682, 683 (1996). The mere possibility the applicant could find a witness somewhere to support an allegation is insufficient to warrant authorization of funds. Id. Where counsel articulates a valid trial strategy for failing to call an expert witness to testify at trial, such conduct will not be deemed ineffective. Legare v. State, 333 S.C. 275, 281, 509 S.E.2d 472, 475 (1998).

 

http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/HTMLFiles/COA/5359.pdf