You’re poor. You’ve been arrested. You go to court and you can’t afford to hire a private attorney, so the court tells you to apply for a public defender. You go to their office and fill out a form and they ask you some questions. You have to tell them how much you make, how many dependents you have and how many assets you have. They thank you, give you your next court date and say that they have to complete an investigation into your finances before a final appointment is made.
That’s fine, you say. It makes sense. People shouldn’t be getting taxpayer funded services if they don’t qualify. Many states have made it a crime to lie on the application for public defender services and at least one state has held that there’s no confidentiality in the information provided in those applications.
So you go home and one day a nice man, Eric Carrizales, knocks on your door and says he’s here to investigate whether you really qualify for the public defender.
Carrizales spends a couple of hours a day at the courthouse sifting through applications and going to applicants’ homes to talk about their answers.
What a great public service. The Indigency Council that makes the appointments is tremendously happy about Carrizales’ work:
McLennan County Indigent Defense Coordinator Cathy Edwards said she has seen about a 40 percent drop in requests since sheriff’s office Detective Eric Carrizales began investigating them in November.
Edwards said she received as many as 50 applicants in a week prior to Carrizales’ arrival. Now, she sees about 30.
Carrizales’ investigations also help put Edwards’ mind at ease when granting a request.
“It makes me feel better to know that what Eric’s finding — the ones he’s going out and investigating — I’m making the right decision by appointing these folks an attorney,” Edwards said. “These folks really don’t have anything.”
Glad to hea-hang on a second, did she say “sheriff’s office Detective Eric Carrizales”?
Yes, yes in fact Carrizales is a cop. They send a cop to the homes of defendants seeking to apply for the public defender and have him interview and investigate them.
In fact, there’s such a problem with falsifying information on applications, that a whopping 2 people have been arrested since November.
When put in perspective, you begin to see why Edwards has seen a drop in applications. It might have to do with the fact that people don’t want a police officer coming into their homes and asking them questions.
Oh, you know what else a police officer might do when he enters a home? He might look around:
In addition to reducing the number of applicants, Carrizales’ work has also led to several arrests.
Carrizales said he has made more than 20 arrests simply from following up with applicants at their homes and finding fugitives with outstanding warrants.
Colyer said the sheriff’s office expected the additional arrests because the investigation of one crime often leads to the discovery of other offenses.
Though some crime suspects are wary of Carrizales entering their homes, Colyer noted that those with nothing to hide welcome his investigations.
So the county sends a police officer to the homes of poor, underprivileged people in the guise of conducting an investigation into just how poor they are, exactly, and then use that opportunity to investigate other criminal activity and arrest those people.
This isn’t an option that is given to poor people seeking the assistance of a lawyer. This is a condition precedent to getting a lawyer.
This is an abuse of the power of the system in the worst way imaginable.
H/T: PD Gumshoe