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The high price of saving money (access required)

A new state law designed to control costs for indigent defense may end up adding stress on overburdened courts

There’s an old adage that free legal advice can wind up being very expensive in the long run. Some attorneys fear that a new law designed to reduce the amount of money the state spends to provide legal counsel for poor defendants may prove the truth of that. As part of the new state budget, the North Carolina legislature reclassified some misdemeanors, including driving with no operator’s license (NOL) and driving while a license is revoked (DWLR), and reduced the penalties for low-level misdemeanors so that defendants with three or fewer prior convictions will no longer face jail sentences. With incarceration no longer possible for these defendants, the state won’t be obligated to appoint attorneys to those who can’t afford them.

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