Today, Hunter sat down with Marea Beeman, Director of Research Initiatives for Defender Legal Services at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), to discuss their recent report, “At What Cost? Findings from an Examination into the Imposition of Public Defense System Fees.

If you ask the average person what the word “free” means, they will likely tell you it means whatever is considered “free” does not have any cost associated with it. So, when people hear, “If you cannot afford counsel, one will be appointed to you at no cost to yourself”, people would likely assume that this attorney is “free”. Anyone who is familiar with our legal system, however, will inform you that you will likely have to pay for your Public Defender. In fact, in many states, the first time you appear before a judge, that judge will make clear to you that your counsel will cost you.

From a top-down look at all 50 states, to deep dives into the Public Defender fees in Oklahoma, Iowa, and New Hampshire, Marea and Hunter discuss the various ways these fees trap people in never ending cycles of debt that can lead to future incarceration, loss of driving privileges, and work to perpetuate a broken, predatory legal system.