Archives for March 2013

The Right to Counsel

In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon was charged with breaking and entering a pool hall in Panama City, FL and stealing money from the hall’s vending machines.  Gideon could not afford a lawyer so he requested that an attorney be appointed to him.  His request was denied because he was not facing the death penalty, and he was sentenced to five years in prison.   In 1963, the US Supreme Court reversed his conviction, holding that defense counsel is “fundamental and essential” to a fair trial.  50 years later, a NY Times editorial examines whether this mandate is being met.

While the constitutional commitment is generally met in federal courts, it is a different story in state courts, which handle about 95 percent of America’s criminal cases. This matters because, by well-informed estimates, at least 80 percent of state criminal defendants cannot afford to pay for lawyers and have to depend on court-appointed counsel.

Even the best-run state programs lack enough money to provide competent lawyers for all indigent defendants who need them. Florida set up public defender offices when Gideon was decided, and the Miami office was a standout. But as demand has outpaced financing, caseloads for Miami defenders have grown to 500 felonies a year, though the American Bar Association guidelines say caseloads should not exceed 150 felonies.

Only 24 states have statewide public defender systems. Others flout their constitutional obligations by pushing the problem onto cash-strapped counties or local judicial districts.

Lack of financing isn’t the only problem, either. Contempt for poor defendants is too often the norm. In Kentucky, 68 percent of poor people accused of misdemeanors appear in court hearings without lawyers. In 21 counties in Florida in 2010, 70 percent of misdemeanor defendants pleaded guilty or no contest — at arraignments that averaged less than three minutes.

Read the entire editorial by the New York Times.

The NH Public Defender Program recently marked it’s 40th anniversary.  If you are charged with a crime in New Hampshire and the potential punishment for that crime includes jail or imprisonment, then you may be entitled to the appointment of a New Hampshire attorney to represent you.

If you are over income to receive appointed counsel, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to attorneys who have satisfied specific  education  and experience requirements to receive referrals in felony matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

 

kyle.taylor@oracle.com

Identity Thieves May File And Receive Your Tax Return

Waiting until April to file your tax return may allow identity thieves to beat you to it.  These crooks file fake returns using stolen names and Social Security numbers, along with false wage information, generating large fraudulent refunds.

“Our cases have increased by about 650 percent since 2008,” says Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, kind of the internal watchdog at the IRS. People go to her when they have a problem with their returns.

The IRS itself says the number of cases has doubled each year in recent years. And a lot of the fraud is coming out of South Florida.

It catches on like fire. It spreads like a virus. Friends tell their friends,” says Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

He calls this crime an epidemic. Fraudsters come from all walks of life: hospital workers, former Marines, white collar professionals and former gang members who have switched from street violence to tax fraud.

Read entire article at NPR.org.

Video Tips from the IRS

If you are a victim of this type of identity theft, contact your Local Taxpayer Advocate.

If you are still not able to resolve your issue, a lawyer  may be able to assist you.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to attorneys who are skilled at handling identity theft legal issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

For other tax related matters, contact the Low-Income Taxpayer Project of the New Hampshire Bar Association.