Practicing criminal law in federal court is not always about circuit splits, sentencing guidelines, or negotiating with prosecutors. Sometimes, you can help your client with simple things that are more important in the moment than complicated legal issues. Like getting to court.
When indigent defendants are released prior to trial and then go home, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away, getting to court for hearings can be emotionally and financially taxing. There is of course the option to have the clients waive routine appearances prior to the hearing. But it is important to remember that if a client needs or wants to appear for a hearing, but cannot pay for transportation to court, the Marshals will pick up the tab, at least one way.
Under 18 U.S.C. § 4285, “when the interests of justice would be served thereby and the United States judge or magistrate judge is satisfied, after appropriate inquiry, that the defendant is financially unable to provide the necessary transportation to appear before the required court on his own, [the court may] direct the United States marshal to arrange for that person's means of noncustodial transportation or furnish the fare for such transportation to the place where his appearance is required, and in addition may direct the United States marshal to furnish that person with an amount of money for subsistence expenses to his destination, not to exceed the amount authorized as a per diem allowance for travel under section 5702(a) of title 5, United States Code.” A motion for transportation and subsistence fees must be filed, and an order granted based on this statute. Again, this is transportation to court, not back home, and getting subsistence can be a struggle. But it can be done, and is rather routine.
This won’t make the guidelines more reasonable or get rid of mandatory minimums, but it is one less thing the client has to worry about. And it helps assure that the client feels engaged in the process without stressing about how they are going to do one of the most basic things, showing up for court.
-- Carl Folsom