Iowa Code 815.1 Deemed Unconstitutional

Polk County, IA -- A defendant charged with Sexual Abuse needed a court reporter to take depositions and a private investigator to collect evidence on their behalf. Unfortunately, Iowa Code 815.1 -- which prevents defendants whose friends and family pay for their lawyers from getting state payment for these necessary services unless their lawyers earn no more than $63/hour -- got in the way.

Attorney Katherine Sears argued on the defendant's behalf that Iowa Code 815.1 was unconstitutional as applied. She argued that the constitution guarantees defendants who don't have a lot of money public payment for reasonably necessary defense services regardless of how much their lawyer is paid.

The lawyer argued that Iowa Code 815.1 violated the defendant's rights to effective assistance of counsel, to due process, and to equal protection of the laws. Finally, she raised a structural constitutional challenge. Katie Sears asserted that in denying state payment for these services, the government was defying its obligation to create a system of indigent defense that would provide "zealous advocacy" for criminal defendants.

After some argument, the judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional in this situation. Thereafter, the judge granted the defendant's request for an investigator and for depositions at State expense.

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