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State v. Cunningham

June 10, 2003

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
JAIMIE LYNN CUNNINGHAM, ET AL., APPELLANTS.



St. Louis County District Court File Nos. T702608356, TX02607945, TX02608979, T302608953, TX01603612, T902606530 T202605865, T402605866, T202608488, K302600075, T102602584, T802608642

Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The $28 co-payment required by Minn. Stat. § 611.17(c) (2002) does not violate a defendant's rights to counsel or equal protection under the Minnesota or United States Constitutions.

2. When ordering a defendant to reimburse the public defender's office, courts must give a defendant credit for the $28 co-payment required by Minn. Stat. §á611.17(c).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Toussaint, Chief Judge

Affirmed in part and reversed in part

OPINION

Appellants challenge the trial court's imposition of the $28 co-payment required by Minn. Stat. § 611.17(c) (2002). They argue that the co-payment infringes on their rights to counsel and equal protection under the Minnesota and United States Constitutions, and that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the co-payment on appellants. Appellants Sommerlot, Peterson, and Cunningham argue further that the trial court impermissibly ordered them to pay twice for the same public defender services when the court ordered them to pay the $28 co-payment and to reimburse the public defender's office $20. Because we conclude that the co-payment required by sectioná611.17(c) is constitutional, and that the court was within its discretion in imposing the co-payment on appellants, but that the court must take the $28 co-payment into account when ordering reimbursement and that the court erred in ordering appellants Sommerlot, Peterson, and Cunningham to reimburse the public defenders office $20 in addition to the co-payment, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

FACTS

This case involves ten appellants who were all assessed a $28 co-payment under Minn. Stat. § 611.17(c) (2002). Under section 611.17(c), any individual who receives public defender services shall pay a $28 co-payment, unless it is waived by the court. All of the appellants in this case appeared at arraignment hearings between July 23 and 26, 2002, and they were all approved for representation by the public defender.

Nine of the ten appellants pleaded guilty to misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges. In each of the nine cases, the trial court either assessed the $28 co-payment, or reserved the question of the assessment of the co-payment until after a hearing regarding appellants' challenge to the constitutionality of the co-payment requirement. In addition to the $28 co-payment, because appellants Sommerlot, Peterson, and Cunningham were employed, they were each ordered to reimburse the public defender $20 under Minn. Stat. § 611.20, subd. 4 (2002).

Appellant Spratley agreed to waive her right to a speedy trial in exchange for the deferred prosecution of a misdemeanor no-proof-of-insurance charge and dismissal of a no-taillights charge. The court neither assessed Spratley the $28 co-payment, nor waived her co-payment. But the court later agreed at the hearing regarding the constitutionality of section 611.17(c) that it was the practice of court administration to automatically impose the $28 co-payment in any case where a public defender is appointed if the court does not expressly waive the co-payment. Thus, although it is unstated in the record, it appears that Spratley was assessed the $28 co-payment because the court did not expressly waive the co-payment requirement.

On September 4, 2002, the trial court heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of the co-payment required by section 611.17(c). The court held that the statute was constitutional and imposed the $28 co-payment on nine of the ten appellants, finding that the imposition of the co-payment would not cause a manifest hardship. The court did ...


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