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Oct 18, 2016 11:18 AM

NH Supreme Court gets rid of free lawyers for those refusing to pay fines

CONCORD — Criminal defendants who face jail time for refusing to pay a court fine will no longer have the right to a court-appointed lawyer under a new New Hampshire Supreme Court rule.

A new rule was signed by four of the five justices which lays out the procedures for imposing and collecting court fines, mainly in cases involving people who claim they cannot afford to pay a fine, the Union Leader reported.

Court-appointed lawyers used to be supplied whenever a defendant faced jail time for the inability to pay fines, but this new rule states that court-appointed lawyers should only be provided if a case is complex or special circumstances warrant it.

A defendant that says they can not pay the fine must file a financial affidavit. If the judge determines that the defendant cannot pay the fine, the judge can suspend some or all of it or allow the defendant to work it off in community service at a rate of $15 a hour.

The defendant would only be jailed for willful nonpayment after a court hearing.

The new rules go into effect Jan. 1.

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