Does the court have the authority to order a defendant to pay for the costs of their public defender?
Yes, the court may "recoup" the costs of providing public defense to the defendant when the defendant is convicted, however, the court may not order a defendant to pay unless the defendant is able or will be able to pay the costs. In determining the amount and method of payment of costs, the court shall take account of the financial resources of the defendant and the nature of the burden that payment of costs will impose. See RCW 10.01.160(3)
If the defendant has not been convicted or is in the pretrial stages, only certain designated costs may be imposed. The costs that may be imposed on an un-convicted defendant include the costs of a defendant's entry into a deferred prosecution program, costs imposed upon a defendant for pretrial supervision, or costs imposed upon a defendant for preparing and serving a warrant for failure to appear. See RCW 10.01.160(1)
Washington case law recognizes that the recoupment of defense costs are constitutionally permissible when the following conditions are met:
(1) the requirement of recoupment must not be mandatory
(2) recoupment may only be imposed on convicted defendants
(3) the defendant must be allowed to seek remission
(4) a defendant may not be held in contempt for failure to pay if the default was not attributable to an intentional refusal to obey the court's order or to a failure to make a good faith effort to make the payment.
The WESTLAW site at the following links may be used to review more information:
RCW 10.01.180 provides guidance in determining when the defendant can be held in contempt for nonpayment.
RN id: 2134