A new report compiled and published earlier this month by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law mentions Collin County as an example of a court system that “explicitly require screeners to view the non-liquid assets of potential clients as available to pay for counsel” citing a financial consideration in the county’s fair defense plan for felony cases that defendants with assets of $2,500 or higher are not considered indigentBill Baumbach at the Collin County Observer adds:
For good measure, here's a link to the report from the Brennan Center, titled "Eligible for Justice," for anyone interested.
From what I've seen, too many defendants are in court without an attorney, and too many are forced to plea bargain either without an lawyer or because they can't afford one.
The criteria for claiming indigency are entirely too severe. Owning a 3 year old Kia can keep you from getting a court appointed lawyer. Prisoners are handed long intimidating forms, and I've heard stories that they've been told that if one thing is untrue, they will be prosecuted for perjury.
See Collin County has cut spending on legal defense for the poor - by Ed Housewright of the DMN, Jan. 27, 2008
Also see Collin cuts court costs, but at what price? by Ed Housewright of the DMN, Aug.4, 2007
There was another reference in the report to a Texas example, Midland County, which requires screeners to include spousal income and assets when calculating a defendants' indigency. I have no idea if that's typical elsewhere in Texas, but the Brennan Center found it remarkable.