Hiring your own lawyer does not prevent you from getting Court funds for your defense

In the case of State v Brouillette the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that hiring a lawyer does not prevent an indigent defendant from obtaining State funds that are necessary to prepare her defense.

Heidi Brouillette was charged with burglary, second degree assault and criminal mischief. She was indigent and initially requested court appointed counsel so a public defender was assigned to her case. She later decided to retain private counsel who filed notice of a possible insanity defense and requested that the trial court order funds be provided for an expert psychological evaluation pursuant to  New Hampshire law (RSA 604-A:6). The court denied the request because the defendant hired her own lawyer instead of keeping her court appointed attorney. The defendant appealed the decision to the NH Supreme Court.

The Court reversed the trial court. The Court explained the trial court has discretion to award funds based on the defendant’s ability prove (1) that she is indigent and (2) the funds are necessary to her defense. In this case the trial court did not allow the defendant to meet this burden of proof and therefore the Court sent it back to the trial court so it could make these findings.

This case is important because it stands for the proposition that a defendant can hire her own lawyer and may still be able to access court funds to pay for her defense. There are many instances in which a lawyer will agree to represent a defendant for a reduced fee, or in which a defendant’s friends and family will pool their money to pay for a private lawyer to represent a defendant, but will be unable to afford the costs of mounting a defense. You always have a choice about who represents you in Court.

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