§175. Proceedings to determine indigency
A.(1)(a) A preliminary inquiry and determination of indigency of any accused person
shall be made by the court not later than arraignment and such determination may be
reviewed by the court at any other stage of the proceedings.
(b) A person will be deemed "indigent" who is unable, without substantial financial
hardship to himself or to his dependents, to obtain competent, qualified legal representation
on his own. "Substantial financial hardship" is presumptively determined to include all
defendants who receive public assistance, such as Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families, Medicaid, Disability Insurance, resides in public housing, or earns less than
two hundred percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline. A defendant is presumed to have a
substantial financial hardship if he or she is currently serving a sentence in a correctional
institution or is housed in a mental health facility.
(c) Defendants not falling below the presumptive threshold will be subjected to a
more rigorous screening process to determine if their particular circumstances, including
seriousness of the charges being faced, monthly expenses, local private counsel rates, would
result in a "substantial hardship" were they to seek to retain private counsel.
(d) If the court makes the preliminary determination that the accused is or may be
indigent, the court shall require the accused to make application to the district public
defender office or an attorney appointed or under contract to provide indigent defender
services, who shall inquire further into the accused's economic status and, upon determining
that the accused is indigent, shall file a certification thereof, in such form as the court may
require and without paying costs in advance, in the record of the proceeding or enroll as
(e) The accused shall be responsible for applying for indigent defense counsel and
for establishing his indigency and entitlement to appointment of counsel. Any oral or written
statements made by the accused in or for use in the criminal proceeding and material to the
issue of his indigency shall be made under oath or an equivalent affirmation.
(f) An accused person or, if applicable, a parent or legal guardian of an accused
minor or an accused adult person who is claimed as a dependent on the federal income tax
submission of his parent or legal guardian, who makes application to the district office
certifying that he is financially unable to employ counsel and requesting representation by
indigent defense counsel or conflict counsel, shall pay a nonrefundable application fee of
forty dollars to the district office or its designee, which fee shall be in addition to all other
fees or costs lawfully imposed. If the board or other appropriate official determines that the
person does not have the financial resources to pay the application fee based upon the
financial information submitted, the fee may be waived or reduced. An accused who is
found to be indigent may not be refused counsel for failure to pay the application fee.
(g) The proceeds shall be deposited to the judicial district indigent defender fund in
the judicial district in which the application was made.
(h) The funds collected pursuant to this Section and all interest or other income
earned from the investment of such funds shall be used and administered by each district
(i) The district public defender shall maintain a record of all persons applying for
representation and the disposition of the application and shall provide this information to the
board on a monthly basis as well as reporting the amount of funds collected or waived.
(2) The district public defender or his assistants or an attorney providing indigent
defender services pursuant to a contract with the board shall be allowed to summon witnesses
to testify before the court concerning the financial ability of any accused person to employ
counsel for his defense.
(3) Failure of the judge to comply with provisions of this Section shall result in
deduction of reasonable criminal defense costs from the Judicial Expense Fund.
B.(1) In determining whether or not a person is indigent and entitled to the
appointment of counsel, the court shall consider whether the person is a needy person and
the extent of his ability to pay. The court may consider such factors as income or funds from
employment or any other source, including public assistance, to which the accused is entitled,
property owned by the accused or in which he has an economic interest, outstanding
obligations, the number and ages of dependents, employment and job training history, and
level of education.
(2) Release on bail alone shall not disqualify a person for appointment of counsel.
In each case, the person subject to the penalty of perjury shall certify in writing such material
factors relating to his ability to pay as the court prescribes.
C. Nothing in this Chapter shall prevent a criminal defendant from obtaining
representation through the board at no charge.
D. The judicial administrator for the Louisiana Supreme Court shall develop a form
to be used by the court in determining indigency. The form, at a minimum, shall include the
following determinations by the court:
(1) Whether the defendant receives any form of public assistance.
(2) The occupational status of the defendant and income, if any.
(3) Whether the payment of legal fees would deprive the defendant or his dependents
of necessities of life including clothing, shelter, or food.
(4) Whether the defendant is eligible for indigent defender services based upon the
defendant's income and assets.
Acts 2007, No. 307, §1; Acts 2016, No. 224, §1.