Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Litigation, Incarceration for Fees/Fines (incomplete)

In State v. Stone, 268 P.3d 226, 235 (Wash. Ct. App. 2012), a Court of Appeals held that due process requires appointment of counsel in enforcement proceedings for legal financial obligations (LFOs) stemming from criminal convictions if incarceration is an immediate possibility.


After determining that the LFO proceedings were "criminal in nature", the Stone court extended the ruling in Tetro v. Tetro, 544 P.2d 17, 19 (Wash. 1975) (right to counsel in civil contempt cases) to the instant situation.  It also distinguished the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Turner v. Rogers because the LFO defendants faced a state prosecutor, not an unrepresented private party.  Additionally, it pointed out that the Department of Corrections had terminated its supervision of the defendant, and so his liberty interest was not conditional as with the probation revocation or parole situations (like Gagnon v. Scarpelli, where the right to counsel is on a case-by-case basis).  The court concluded that "regardless of whether we label the LFO enforcement proceedings as civil or criminal, Stone had a due process right to appointed counsel at public expense that was abrogated by the trial court proceedings." Id. at 235.


See also Smith v. Whatcom County Dist. Court, 52 P.3d 485, 487 (Wash. 2002) (person jailed for failure to pay fines; court applies Tetro).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no