Bell District Court and County Court Plan
Preamble
10/22/2021

 

 
Bell County
District and County Courts
Indigent Defense Plan


Document Titled                                            Indigent Defense Plan     

 

Document Effective Date                               November 1, 2021

  

Authorities Required;

 

Local Administrative District Judge   ___________________________________

                                                            Jack Jones , 146th Judicial District

 

 

Local Administrative County Judge    ____________________________________

                                                            John Mischtian, County Court At Law #2

 

County Judge                                      ____________________________________

                                                             David Blackburn, County Judge

 

 

 


 1. Introduction

 The following policy establishes practices for the appointment of attorneys for indigent defendants pursuant to the Texas Fair Defense Act.  It will cover the subsequent processes required to qualify a defendant, verify documentation, sustain appropriate listing of approved legal counsel, appoint counsel, and process financial reimbursements.  These policies are intended to provide guidance to Bell County District and County Courts to meet compliance with the following:

 

·         Texas Fair Defense Act (FDA, Act 2001, 77th Legislature)

·         Government Code

·         Code of Criminal Procedure

 

Bell County recognizes that documented course of actions may contribute to accurate and timely processing.  These guidelines are intended to provide effective processes for the Indigent Defense Coordinator and other offices and staff and provide a clear understanding of their respective roles in the process.  The policy also provides an audit trail and assurance of the appropriateness and accuracy of reported financial data.

 2. Document Conventions

 This document utilizes the following conventions when referring to a specific text. All references to the Texas Government Code shall bear the reference “GC §”. All references to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure shall be referred to as “CCP §”. All internal references to the herein plan/policy shall be referenced as “P §”. All other references or citations shall use the proper full styling for correct citations.

 All references to persons in this policy shall mean to include both genders, and their use shall be considered synonymous with the terms he or she and him or her.

 All references to the term policy or plan shall be synonymous for the purposes of this document.

2.1 Definitions

 Indigent Defense Office (IDC) – Area of Pretrial Services responsible for managing the process of indigency determination, the Attorney Court Appointed List, and compliance.

 Financial Questionnaire (FQ) – Affidavit of Indigency used to gather information for determining indigency.

  Equity Assets- fair market value of marketable assets less indebtedness thereon.


3. Administration

 These guidelines are designed to provide for a systematic method of providing qualified counsel to indigent persons in criminal cases.

 This policy is also intended to provide procedures and guidance for the day-to-day responsibilities of the Bell County Indigent Defense Office (IDC).

3.1      Office Location

The Bell County Indigent Defense Office is located in the Bell County Court Complex.  Transitory offices are located in the County Jail within the Pretrial Services Department and the Magistration Courtroom inside the Bell County Jail.

 3.1.1        Mailing Address

Indigent Defense

PO Box 366

Belton, Texas 76513

3.1.2        Physical Address – Bell County Justice Center

 Indigent Defense

1201 Huey Road

Belton, Texas 76513

3.1.3        Telecommunication

 Telephone      254-933-5769

  Fax               254-933-5776

 

3.2 Organizational Structure

 The Bell County Indigent Defense Office is under the supervision of the Pretrial Services Director. The Pretrial Services Director serves as the Administrator of the Indigent Defense Office and shall be the primary contact for all administrative, judicial, and formal correspondence. The Pretrial Services Director shall represent the Indigent Defense Office as required or requested.

 The Pretrial Services Director is under the supervision of the Constitutional County Judge. The Constitutional County Judge shall have all direct authority over the department.

 The Local Administrative District Judge shall appoint a judicial liaison to advise the department for all judicially relevant matters.

 Office staff has no authority or power to make or amend organizational policies. All organizational plans and policies must adhere to the defined approval process documented in P § 3.3 and P § 3.4.


3.3 Approval Process for Indigent Defense Policy

 Indigent Defense Policy shall be approved by the Local Administrative Statutory County Judge, Local Administrative District Judge, and the Constitutional County Judge. Each official shall sign the document and submit to the Director of Pretrial Services. The Director of Pretrial Services shall be responsible for filing the approved policy for acceptance by the Commissioner’s Court.


3.4 Approval Process for Indigent Defense Plan

The Indigent Defense Plan shall be approved by the Statutory County Judges and the District Judges trying criminal cases. The Local Administrative Statutory County Judge, Local Administrative District Judge, and the Constitutional County Judge shall sign the plan and submit to the Director of Pretrial Services. The Director of Pretrial Services shall be responsible for filing the approved plan for acceptance by the Commissioner’s Court and shall be responsible for filing the appropriate documents with the Task Force on Indigent Defense.

Prompt Magistration
10/22/2021

 4.      Magistration

A Magistrate’s Courtroom is located in the Bell County Loop Jail located at 2401 Loop 121, Belton, Texas.  A magistrate shall attend the jail daily to ensure that defendants are presented before a Magistrate within 24 hours of their arrest.

The magistrate shall inform in clear language the person arrested, either in person or through the electronic broadcast system, of the accusation against him and of any affidavit filed therewith, of his right to retain counsel, of his right to remain silent, of his right to have an attorney present during any interview with peace officers or attorneys representing the state, of his right to terminate the interview at any time, and of his right to have an examining trial. The magistrate shall also inform the person arrested of the person's right to request the appointment of counsel if the person cannot afford counsel. The magistrate shall inform the person arrested of the procedures for requesting appointment of counsel. The magistrate shall ensure that reasonable assistance in completing the necessary forms for requesting appointment of counsel is provided to the person at the same time. 

A person who is arrested without a warrant and who is detained in jail must be released on bond, in an amount not to exceed $ 5,000, not later than the 24th hour after the person's arrest if the person was arrested for a misdemeanor and a magistrate has not determined whether probable cause exists to believe that the person committed the offense. If the person is unable to obtain a surety for the bond or unable to deposit money in the amount of the bond, the person must be released on personal bond.

A person who is arrested without a warrant and who is detained in jail must be released on bond, in an amount not to exceed $10,000, not later than the 48th hour after the person's arrest if the person was arrested for a felony and a magistrate has not determined whether probable cause exists to believe that the person committed the offense. If the person is unable to obtain a surety for the bond or unable to deposit money in the amount of the bond, the person must be released on personal bond. 

On the filing of an application by the attorney representing the state, a magistrate may postpone the release of a person arrested without a warrant and detained pending the magistrate’s determination of probable cause, for not more than 72 hours after the person's arrest.

 4.1        Bell County Jail 

Pretrial Services shall be present for every Magistration proceeding (including weekdays, weekends and holidays) and shall deliver completed Financial Questionnaires to the Indigent Defense office immediately following the magistration.

 5.      Request for Appointment of Counsel 

In the event that a defendant requests appointment of counsel at magistration, IDC/Pretrial Services shall provide a Financial Questionnaire to that defendant and shall provide assistance and guidance to a defendant in accurately completing the form(s). In the event a defendant elects not to request appointment of counsel, a notation indicating such shall be made on the form at magistration and signed by the defendant.

Defendants appearing in Court without Counsel shall be advised of their right to Counsel and the procedures for requesting Court Appointed Counsel through the Indigent Defense Office. 

If a defendant wishes to request counsel prior to initial appearance, the forms required to request counsel may be obtained at the Texas Indigent Defense Commission’s website at http://tidc.tamu.edu/public.net/ or from the IDC office.  The defendant may submit these forms to the IDC office.  The Court, or its designee, shall rule on all requests for counsel submitted in this manner.

5.1   Prior to Magistration

Bell County Pretrial Services shall be available in the Bell County Jail each day from 7 am to 11 pm to assist in the release of defendants that qualify for a Personal Recognize Bond. Pretrial Services personnel shall be responsible for providing the Financial Questionnaire form to the defendant and providing assistance to a defendant to accurately complete the form(s).

In the event that a defendant has requested appointment of counsel, the financial questionnaire shall be delivered to the IDC (within the Pretrial Services Department).  IDC shall review the form and determine whether the defendant is indigent.

 In the event that a Financial Questionnaire is incomplete, IDC shall contact the defendant promptly upon IDC’s receipt of same and shall have the Financial Questionnaire completed by the defendant.

In the event that a defendant is arrested on an out-of-county warrant, the Magistrate shall inquire as to whether or not the defendant wishes to request counsel and record that response.  In the event that counsel is requested, the Magistrate shall inform the person of the procedures for requesting counsel, provide the defendant with the appropriate forms and ensure the person is provided reasonable assistance in completing the necessary forms for requesting counsel.  The magistrate shall then transmit the request for counsel to the appropriate authority of the county issuing the warrant as designated by that county within 24 hours of the request. Defendants arrested in other counties on local warrants must be appointed counsel in the county that issued the warrant within one working day of receipt of the request. Defendants arrested on out-of-county warrants must be appointed counsel in the county of arrest if the defendant has not been transferred or released to the custody of the county issuing the warrant before the 11th day after the date of the arrest. 

5.2 Counsel

IDC shall make a determination of indigency within one working day of its receipt of a completed Financial Questionnaire. In the event that said 24 hour period terminates on a weekend or holiday, IDC shall make a determination of indigency within one working day immediately following their receipt of the completed Financial Questionnaire.

IDC shall generate a daily report from the Jail Management System listing all active defendants with felony charges that are without legal counsel. In the event that a defendant has been incarcerated for fourteen (14) days without counsel, IDC shall immediately advise the defendant that an attorney shall be appointed to represent the defendant. Said appointment shall be made by the close of business on the next business day following the defendant’s contact by IDC.

If an indigent defendant is arrested in another county based on a Bell County warrant, a request for counsel shall be acted upon within one working day of this county’s receipt of the request for counsel.

Indigence Determination Standards
10/22/2021

6. Indigence Determination

The financial standards set forth below shall be used by the IDC to determine whether a defendant is indigent and shall be applied equally to each defendant in the County. The office shall not consider the following factors when determining eligibility:

6.1 Presumption of Indigency

A defendant shall be presumed to be indigent if at the time of completion of the Financial Questionnaire the defendant is eligible to receive:

A defendant shall be presumed to be indigent if the defendant is:


6.2 Special Circumstances

In certain circumstances a defendant may exceed the financial criteria of the poverty level and asset test, but may still be found indigent. In these instances the IDC must fully document the defendant’s circumstances and obtain judicial approval prior to appointment of counsel.

These may include, but are not limited to, the following circumstances:

In the interest of justice, an attorney may be appointed to represent the following defendants:

(1) Defendants charged with a misdemeanor offense when currently on probation for a felony offense, or

(2) Defendants identified by PTS as facing or potentially facing immigration issues as a result of a plea/conviction on a criminal case, or

(3) Defendants under the age of 21 years charged with a misdemeanor theft offense, or

(4) Defendants unable to speak or understand the English language. 

6.3 Finding of Indigency

The IDC shall find the defendant indigent if:

Poverty Level

The defendant’s gross household income less taxes paid by a single person claiming one exemption, does not exceed 125% of the Poverty guidelines established annually by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

In determining the defendant’s gross household income, the income of a victim of domestic violence or the income of a parent/guardian of a victim of domestic violence shall not be considered. Crimes of domestic violence include any assault on a child that is a member of the defendant’s household or assault on any adult who is a member of the defendant’s household.

Asset Test

The defendant owns not more than $5,000 in Equity Assets. Equity Assets are defined as the fair market value of marketable assets less indebtedness thereon. This excludes home and one vehicle.

Presumptive Indigency

The defendant is presumed indigent pursuant to P § 6.1 herein or, because of special circumstances as per P § 6.2 herein.

6.4 Verification of Information

A determination of indigence is based upon the information provided by the defendant. IDC should be diligent in the interview process to ensure that the information provided by the defendant seems probable and accurate.

IDC should advise the Defendant that information in the Financial Questionnaire should be accurate and complete. Defendants knowingly providing false information or providing information that they should have known was false or inaccurate are subject to possible legal recourse. Each Financial Questionnaire form should then be signed by the defendant.

6.4.1 Documentation Tool

The IDC shall have access to certain public records to verify information furnished by defendants in the Financial Questionnaire. IDC has the right to review all available records to substantiate information provided by a defendant.
Minimum Attorney Qualifications
10/22/2021

7. Expectations of Counsel

An appointed attorney shall not require a defendant to travel outside Bell County to meet with counsel. 

All court appointed attorneys shall provide competent representation for their clients. An appointed attorney shall make initial contact with the defendant within 24 hours of the attorney’s receipt of notice of the appointment and shall personally interview the defendant within ten (10) business days of receipt of their first notice of appointment, provided the defendant is incarcerated in a local detention facility. If defendant is incarcerated in an out of county facility, the appointed attorney shall make initial contact with the defendant within 24 hours of the attorney's receipt of notice of the appintment and shall personally inteview the defendant within a reasonable period of time. 

The attorney that is appointed on the case is expected to provide legal services for their client.  At the discretion of the court and with the consent of the client, stand-in counsel may appear on behalf of the appointed counsel provided said counsel is capable of providing competent representation for the defendant.


 8. Court Appointed Attorney List

Lists of attorneys approved by the Courts to represent indigent defendants for the different offense levels listed below shall be maintained by the Indigent Defense Coordinator’s office.


8.1 Application

Attorneys shall apply using the Bell County Attorney Application for Appointments as referenced in the Plan Documents. Applications with required documentation shall be submitted to the Indigent Defense Coordinator’s office. Attorneys may apply for and be placed on multiple lists.

Once approved for placement on list(s), attorneys wishing to remain on the approved list(s) of court appointed attorneys shall renew their application every third year prior to their birth date. Applications may be renewed by completing the Bell County Attorney Renewal Application form with all required documentation.

Courts shall consider applications from attorneys wishing to be added to or remain on the approved list(s) on a monthly basis.


8.2 General Qualifications

To be eligible for placement on any list, attorneys shall meet the following minimum general qualifications:

(a) An attorney must ensure all information on their application is correct;

(b) An attorney must be licensed to practice law in the State of Texas;

(c) An attorney must be in good standing with the State Bar of Texas;

(d) An attorney must exhibit proficiency and commitment to providing quality representation to criminal defendants;

(e) An attorney must exhibit professionalism and reliability when providing representation to criminal defendants;

(f) An attorney must have an e-mail address;

(g) An attorney, except an attorney on the appellate list only, shall maintain a staffed office or residence within Bell County; or, the attorney had an office and resided outside Bell County on October 1, 2010, and was an attorney on the Court Appointed Attorney List as of that date;

(h) An attorney shall agree to notify the Indigent Defense Coordinator’s office promptly, in writing, of any matter that would disqualify the attorney by law, regulation, rule or under these guidelines from receiving appointments to represent indigent defendants. The IDC office shall then notify the appropriate court(s).


8.3 Specific Qualifications

In addition, attorneys shall meet the following specific qualifications to represent a defendant at a particular offense level.


8.3.1 Misdemeanor Criminal Cases

(a) An attorney must have one year experience in handling criminal cases or have an attorney with at least three years criminal experience assigned as a mentor and the mentor is available to assist in any trial of the case; and

(b) An attorney shall complete a minimum of 6 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) in the area of criminal law and procedure during each 12 month period immediately preceding their birthday. Attorneys who are not required to report CLE hours to the State Bar of Texas may comply with this requirement by furnishing a letter indicating the number of hours completed in the area of criminal law, the date(s) of the course(s) taken and the location and name of the course(s) to the IDC office prior to their birthday.

(c) Criminal Defendants with Mental Health Concerns

Attorneys appointed to represent criminal defendants with mental health concerns shall be qualified through the Bell County Mental Health Initiative. Said attorneys shall display an interest in representing defendants with mental health issues, shall be otherwise qualified for appointment to represent indigent criminal defendants, or shall be appointed with a mentor, shall be approved by the judges, and are encouraged to complete training through the Bell County Mental Health Initiative. 


8.3.2 Third Degree Felonies and State Jail Felonies (including Motion to Revoke or Adjudicate Third Degree or State Jail Felonies)

(a) An attorney must have met specific qualifications for placement on Misdemeanor Cases;

(b) An attorney must have practiced criminal law for a minimum of two years.

(c) An attorney must have tried to verdict at least two criminal jury trials as lead or second chair counsel.


8.3.3 First and Second Degree Felony Cases (including Motion to Revoke or Adjudicate First and Second Degree Felony Cases)

(a) An attorney must have met specific qualifications for placement on Misdemeanor Cases;

(b) An attorney must have practiced in the area of criminal law for a minimum of four years; and

(c) An attorney must have tried to conclusion at least three criminal jury trials as lead or second chair counsel, including at least one felony trial.


8.3.4  Felony Defendants with Mental Health Concerns

Attorneys appointed to represent criminal defendants with mental health concerns shall be qualified through the Bell County Mental Health Initiative. Said attorneys shall display an interest in representing defendants with mental health issues, shall be otherwise qualified for appointment to represent indigent criminal defendants, or shall be appointed with a mentor, shall be approved by the judges, and are encouraged to complete training through the Bell County Mental Health Initiative. 


8.3.5 Non-Death Penalty Capital Felony Cases

(a) An attorney must have met specific qualifications for placement on Misdemeanor Cases;

(b) An attorney must have practiced in the area of criminal law for at least five years;

(c) An attorney must have tried to verdict at least five criminal jury trials as lead counsel, including at least two trials which were first or second degree felonies or capital felonies and at least one of which was a homicide case.


8.3.6 Death Penalty Cases

(a) An attorney must be on the list of attorneys approved by the local selection committee of the 3rd Administrative Judicial Region for appointment in death penalty cases as provided in Article 26.052 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

(b) To be assigned as second chair counsel in a Death Penalty Case, an attorney must be on the list of attorneys approved by the local selection committee of the 3rd Administrative Judicial Region for appointment in death penalty cases as provided in Article 26.052 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.


8.3.7 Appeal Qualification Requirements

(a) An attorney must have met general qualifications and have met specific qualifications for placement on Misdemeanor Cases (except as noted in P §8.2 (g));

(b) An attorney must have met at least one of the following criteria:

a. Be currently board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; or

b. Have personally authored and filed at least 3 criminal briefs or post-conviction writs of habeas corpus; or

c. Have submitted an appellate writing sample approved by a majority of the judges; or

d. Have worked as a briefing clerk of an appellate court for a period of one year or more.


8.3.8 Continuing Legal Education Hours

Any attorney placed on an appointment list to represent indigent defendants shall file a certificate with the Indigent Defense Coordinator’s office no later than December 30th of each year evidencing completion of required Continuing Legal Education (CLE) or submit documentation showing that the attorney is certified as a specialist in criminal law for that calendar year. Continuing legal education activity completed within a one year period may be used to meet the educational requirements for the initial year. Continuing legal education activity completed during any reporting period in excess of the minimum hours for such period may be applied to the following period’s requirement. The carryover provision applies to one year only.

The Indigent Defense Coordinator’s office shall send an e-mail reminder regarding CLE requirements to attorneys 30 days before December 31st of every year.  Any attorney failing to timely submit documentation evidencing completion of the required CLE or certification as a specialist in criminal law shall be removed from the court appointed lists on the day after the documentation is due and placed on judicial hold.  The judges hearing criminal cases may return the attorney to the court appoint lists once documentation has been provided.

8.3.9 Bell County Mentoring Program

Attorneys who do not meet the criteria for placement on a particular level of appointment as specified above may qualify for placement on the list of attorneys for appointment at a particular level if they successfully complete the Bell County Mentoring Program. The Program shall include participation in CLE activities offered through the program, assignment and use of a mentor attorney approved by the judges hearing criminal cases, and assignment of cases as 2nd chair for cases above their current skill level. An attorney must participate in the program for a minimum of 12 months and must attend 75% of all training events. Eligibility for placement on the attorney list at a level above current placement shall be determined by the judges hearing criminal cases after completion of the 12 month program. Completion of the program will not guarantee placement at the next level as that determination will be made at the sole discretion of the judges hearing criminal cases.

8.4 Judge Approval Process

The District Judges shall review attorney applications for appointment on the felony appointment list(s) on a monthly basis. County Court Judges shall review attorney applications for appointment on the misdemeanor appointment list(s) on a monthly basis. An attorney shall be added to the appropriate list(s) upon the approval of their application by a majority of the judges hearing criminal matters with that level of offense.

When deemed appropriate by a majority of the District or County judges hearing criminal cases, a mentor may be appointed to an attorney on the appointment list. Mentors shall be appointed for a specific period of time as determined by the judges. Mentors shall advise the appointed attorney but shall not appear in court or represent the indigent defendant. Mentors assigned as provided in 8.4 herein are in addition to those assigned through the Bell County Mentoring Program in Paragraph 8.3.9 herein.

Attorneys who have submitted their applications will be notified by the Indigent Defense Coordinator’s office of the decision reached by the Judges related to their application.

8.5 Removal from Court Appointed List

An attorney shall be removed from the appointment list in the event that the majority of the District and/or County judges who hear criminal matters determine that good cause exists to remove an attorney from said list(s). An attorney shall be removed from the appointment list in the event that a majority of the District and/or County judges who hear criminal matters determine that the attorney has failed to meet the qualifications of § 8.2 and § 8.3 herein.

Good cause may include but is not limited to:

(a) Failing on two or more occasions to contact or interview clients in a timely manner as required by CCP § 26.04(j)(1) and P § Sec. 7 herein;

(b) Submitting a claim for legal services not performed as specified in Article 26.05(e), Code of Criminal Procedure;

(c) Failing to comply with each of the appointment list qualifications herein;

(d) Having been found, by a Texas Appellate Court, to have provided ineffective assistance of counsel.

(e) Having been found to have violated a rule of professional conduct by the State Bar of Texas.

(f) After having been placed on appointment list(s) has been convicted of or received a deferred adjudication for any offense, other than an offense punishable by a fine only;

(g) Being under indictment or charged with an offense, other than an offense punishable by a fine only; or

(h) Misrepresenting or providing false or inaccurate information on the attorney’s application for the appointment list;

(i)  Failing to remit funds received on behalf of an investigator or expert within 14 days of receipt of said funds.

(j)  Failing to timely comply with the annual reporting requirements of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 79.036 and Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 26.04.

8.5.1 Referral

If a Judge believes that an attorney has violated, or failed to comply with any of the provisions listed in P § 8.5, the Judge may recommend an attorney be removed from the appointment list(s). The recommendation shall be made to the judges hearing that level of offense(s).

8.5.2 Notification/Hearing

Upon receiving a recommendation that an attorney be removed from the appointment list(s), the judges hearing that level of offense(s) shall notify the attorney in writing of the recommendation and shall inform the attorney of the basis for the recommendation.

The attorney may respond in writing to the judges or be present at a conference of the judges, at the discretion of the judges.

8.5.3 Action

After the judge’s meeting, a majority of the judges attending the meeting shall determine whether the attorney should:

(a) Remain on the appointment list at the same level;

(b) Be moved to an appointment list for indigent defendants charged with less serious offenses;

(c) Be removed from the appointment list(s); or

(d) Be given an opportunity to take correction active as determined by the judges.

At the sole discretion of the judges, removal of any attorney from any list(s) may be probated. For removal or probated removals, the Judges ordering the removal may require the completion of rehabilitative measures as a condition of probation or reapplication. An order of removal shall state the earliest date at which the attorney may apply for reinstatement. An attorney who was removed from an appointment list under section P § 8.5(g) or (h) shall be immediately reinstated upon providing proof that the charges were dismissed or that the attorney was acquitted, unless other grounds for removal exist against the attorney that would prohibit reinstatement.

The decisions of the judges are final and may not be appealed.

8.5.4 Voluntary Removal

An attorney may at any time temporarily and voluntarily remove his/her name from the appointment list(s).  The attorney may return his/her name to the appointment list(s) provided the attorney remains qualified for placement on said list(s).  An attorney who has temporarily removed him/herself from the appointment list(s) shall continue to be appointed on additional cases filed against that defendant while the attorney is on voluntary removal.

An attorney may at any time request in writing to be permanently removed from the appointment list(s). 

8.5.5  Mandatory Attorney Case Reporting

An attorney shall submit by October 15th each year a statement that describes the percentage of the attorney's practice time that was dedicated to work based on appointments accepted in this county for adult criminal cases and juvenile delinquency cases for the prior 12 months that begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. The report must be submitted through the online form to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission/form prescribed by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission to the court administration office in the county.


Prompt Appointment of Counsel
10/22/2021

8.6 Prompt Appointment of Counsel Official Notice

The IDC shall provide an official notice for every complete Financial Questionnaire form processed by the department, regardless of whether the defendant is approved or denied.

This form shall be provided to the following parties in the documented manner:

 

Eligible

Ineligible

Defendant

   

- In Custody

Hand-delivered or e-mail to the jail (daily)

Hand-delivered to the jail (daily)

- Not in Custody

Mailed to current address

Mailed to current address

Attorney

(Mailed and faxed) or e-mailed

n/a

Clerk of the Court

Interoffice mail or e-mail

Interoffice mail or e-mail

Court Coordinator

Interoffice mail or e-mail

n/a

Prosecuting Attorney

Interoffice mail or e-mail

Interoffice mail or e-mail


Attorney Selection Process
10/15/2021

8.7. Appointment of Counsel

IDC shall appoint counsel no later than the end of the working day immediately following the date on which the IDC receives a complete Financial Questionnaire and determines that the defendant is entitled to the appointment of counsel.

IDC shall make attorney appointments based upon the electronic Attorney Assignment system adopted by the county. IDC shall not vary the computer rotation absent good cause as shown in a written order from the Court. The IDC staff does not have the authority to appoint any attorney other than the next attorney as designated by the electronic Attorney Assignment system. However, IDC shall have authority to appoint qualified counsel other than by computer rotation in the event that the defendant is currently represented by said counsel on another criminal case currently pending in Bell County. Any appointments other than by the adopted electronic Attorney Assignment system shall be properly documented and approved by the Judge, except that the Director of Pre-Trial Services may approve the appointment of counsel when the defendant has been previously appointed counsel on a currently pending offense.

8.8 To Withdraw or Substitute

Once an attorney has been appointed to represent an indigent defendant that attorney shall represent the defendant until charges are dismissed, the defendant is acquitted, appeals are exhausted, or the attorney is permitted or ordered by the court to withdraw as counsel for the defendant after a finding of good cause is entered on the record.

8.9 Motion to Revoke

Appointment of counsel to indigent defendants pending motion(s) to revoke and/or motion(s) to adjudicate shall be made using the electronic Attorney Assignment system. This appointment shall follow the normal procedures and policies as other appointments defined herein.

8.10 Special Appointment by Judge

For good cause shown of record, the Court may appoint an attorney to represent an indigent defendant even though the attorney may not be the next attorney to receive such appointment through the use of the electronic Attorney Assignment System. The Court shall enter a written order of record in the case that contains finding of good cause and shall appoint the attorney of their choice to represent the defendant. The Court shall provide a copy of said order to IDC.


Fee and Expense Payment Process
10/15/2021

9. Fee and Expense Payment Process

9.1  Attorney Compensation

No attorney shall be compensated until the Judge approves payment after submission of the attorney fee voucher. The appointed counsel shall submit their request for compensation using the methods required by the Court. The request shall be completed and delivered to the judge hearing the case on the day that the case is finally disposed of by jury trial, trial before the court, plea, dismissal or other final resolution of the matter.

Payment request shall be submitted no more than 30 days after the date the case is concluded.

Requests for payments for investigator and expert expenses prior to the disposition of the case are allowed with court approval. (Investigator and Expert Expenses are covered in P §9.5)

If the Judge fails to approve the compensation requested, the Judge shall state the amount approved for payment and shall state the reason for approval of a different amount.

9.2 Fee Schedule for Misdemeanor Cases

Fee Schedules

Misdemeanor Cases


    (1)     $300 for each dismissal, plea, revocation or motion to adjudicate;      

    (2)     $400 for each one-half day in jury trial or trial before the court;

    (3)     $50 for each additional case(s) pending against the same defendant that is disposed of  by trial, dismissal, or plea, up to a maximum of  $100*

(4)     $125 fee for all cases in the event of motion(s) to substitute counsel filed within 30 days of  appointment

(5)     $250 fee for all cases in the event of motion(s) to substitute counsel or withdrawal for a particular defendant are filed more than 30 days after the date of appointment

    (6)     $70/hour** for appeals.

    (7)     Additional $100 for the representation of an indigent defendant with mental health concerns handled on the mental health docket.

    (8)     $50/hour for attorneys appointed second chair pursuant to the attorney mentoring program for trial, plea, dismissal, revocation, or adjudication.  Fees shall not exceed $300 except in the event of trial.

    (9)    A reasonable fee upon an attorney’s removal or withdrawal from all or most pending cases in which the attorney was appointed.

 


Attorneys are required to provide detailed attorney fee vouchers requesting payment for cases paid by hourly rate to the nearest .10/hour.

 

*  Fee applications shall be submitted at the conclusion of all pending cases against a defendant.

** Hourly rates specified above apply for all documented time incurred in the representation of the defendant in the assigned case that a qualified professional would agree was objectively reasonable and necessary for the representation of      the defendant.

   

9.3 Fee Schedule for Felony Cases

Felony Cases

    (1)     $450 for plea, dismissal after indictment, revocation or motion to adjudicate on a State Jail or 3rd degree;

(2)     At the election of the defense counsel, $75/hour* or $450 for a plea, dismissal after indictment, revocation or motion to adjudicate on 1st degree, or 2nd degree case;

(3)      $75/hour* for the trial of any felony offense;

(4)     Additional felony cases disposed of  in connection with the trial, plea, dismissal after indictment, revocation or motion to adjudicate will be compensated at the rate of  $50 per case or such hourly rate as may be appropriate;

    (5)     $75/hour* for appeals;

    (6)     $75/hour for non-death penalty capital murder cases, 1st and 2nd degree felonies;

    (7)     $50/hour* for attorneys appointed second chair pursuant to the attorney mentoring program for trial, plea, dismissal, revocation, or adjudication.  Fees shall not exceed $400 except in the event of a trial.

    (8)     $250 total fee for all cases in the event of motion(s) to substitute counsel or withdrawal for a defendant on State jail or 3rd degree offense(s) are filed within 30 days of appointment; 

    (9)     $350 for withdrawal or a motion to substitute counsel on all cases for a defendant on a State jail or 3rd degree offense(s) filed 30 days or more after appointment;

   (10)     Additional $100 for the representation of a defendant with mental health concerns handled on the mental health docket.

   (11)     A reasonable fee upon an attorney’s removal or withdrawal from all pending cases in which the attorney was appointed. 

   (12)  Death Penalty Capital Cases - The Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases shall be appointed to all capital felony cases in which the death penalty is available unless good cause exists to appoint private counsel. If a co-defendant requests appointment of counsel and is determined to be indigent, the Appointing Authority shall appoint counsel pursuant to the standards and procedures stated in this Section.


Attorneys are required to provide detailed attorney fee vouchers requesting payment for cases paid by hourly rate to the nearest .10/hour.

 

*Hourly rates specified above apply for all documented time incurred in the representation of the defendant in the assigned case that a qualified professional would agree was objectively reasonable and necessary for the representation of the defendant.


9.4 Appeal/Writs

          $70. 00 per hour for misdemeanor cases

$75.00 per hour for felony cases.

9.5 Veterans Treatment Court

 The attorney appointed to represent indigent defendants in the Veterans Treatment Court shall be paid in accordance with the terms of the contract(s) for defender representation in that Court.   

In exceptional circumstances and for good cause shown, an attorney may request payment at a rate in excess of the rates specified above. Payment in excess of the fee schedule herein shall be in the sole discretion of the trial court hearing the case.  Attorneys are required to provide detailed attorney fee vouchers requesting payment for cases paid by hourly rate to the nearest .10/hour.

 

*Hourly rates specified above apply for all documented time incurred in the representation of the defendant in the assigned case that a qualified professional would agree was objectively reasonable and necessary for the representation of the defendant.

9.6 Investigators and Expert Expenses

Counsel appointed in a non-capital case shall be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses for investigation, for mental health experts and for other experts. Expenses shall be reimbursed as provided herein.

Attorneys shall submit original invoices for investigator and expert witness fees at the time that they submit their attorney fee voucher for payment.  Payments for expert and investigator fees shall be paid to the attorney at the time their attorney fee voucher is paid.  Attorneys shall remit fees received on their voucher to the appropriate experts and investigators within 14 days of their receipt of said fees.  Failure to timely remit said funds may result in removal of the attorney from the court appointment lists.

 

          9.6.1 With Prior Court Approval

Appointed counsel may file with the trial court a pretrial ex parte confidential request for payment of investigative and expert witness expenses. The request for expenses must state, as applicable:

 

1.    the type of investigation to be conducted or the type of expert to be retained;

2.    specific facts that suggest the investigation will result in admissible evidence or that the services of an expert are reasonably necessary to assist in the preparation of a potential defense; and

3.    an estimate of the cost of said investigator/expert.

 

The court shall grant the request for payment of expenses in whole or in part if the request is reasonable or deny the request for payment.


          9.6.2   Procedure Without Prior Court Approval

Appointed counsel may incur investigative or expert expenses without prior approval of the court. On presentation of a claim for reimbursement, the court shall order payment of the expenses, if the expenses are reasonably necessary and reasonably incurred. Unreasonable or unnecessary expenses shall not be paid.


9.7        Payment Processing

   Attorney Payments will be processed in coordination with Bell County current Accounts Payable policies and procedures.






Miscellaneous
10/24/2016

 Miscellaneous

10. Monitoring and Oversight

IDC shall monitor compliance with the provisions of P § 11 herein. An attorney’s failure to comply with the provisions of P § 11 shall be documented by the IDC and may result in removal of an attorney from representation of an indigent defendant in a particular case and/or removal of an attorney from the list of eligible court appointed counsel for a period of time or permanently. In the event that an attorney fails to comply with the provisions of P § 11, the IDC shall notify the attorney by e-mail or fax and shall request prompt compliance with the provisions of P § 11. The IDC shall prepare monthly reports at the direction of the district and county court judges hearing criminal cases to monitor compliance with the provisions of P § 7.2

Plan Documents
Bell District and County Court Affidavit of Indigence.pdf (10/30/2015 10:16:12 AM) view
Bell District and County Court Attorney Application for Appointment.docx (10/30/2015 10:17:34 AM) view
Bell District and County Court Attorney Fee Schedule.pdf (6/1/2018 9:55:50 AM) view
Bell District and County Court Attorney Fee Voucher.pdf (10/24/2016 11:12:30 AM) view
Bell District and County Court Contracts for Indigent Defense Services.pdf (10/22/2021 11:45:52 AM) view
Bell District and County Court Magistrate’s Warning Form.pdf (10/30/2015 10:13:10 AM) view
Bell District and County Court Noncompliance Letter to Attorney.pdf (10/30/2015 10:39:29 AM) view
Bell District and County Court Renewal Attorney Application for Appointment.docx (10/30/2015 10:38:22 AM) view
Bell District and County Court Waiver of Counsel.pdf (10/30/2015 10:18:33 AM) view