By SHAUN KITTLE
MALONE - Franklin County Public Defender Tom Soucia said a rash of incomplete applications are leaving some people defenseless.
Soucia said about 280 applications were rejected so far this year because they didn't have proper documentation. Seven of those were rejected last week.
"Some people aren't filing at all, and some are filing at the last moment, as in they're scheduled for court at 10 a.m. and they file at 9:30," Soucia said. "When you're dealing with the fact that somebody could be going to jail, or could end up losing their children, any type of delay like that can have severe consequences. And the court, being the way the system is set up and the way things have to be processed, isn't going to be too sympathetic for someone who waited until the last moment to apply."
Potential clients can file to be defended as soon as they receive a court date. The application process involves providing information like paycheck stubs and copies of bills to determine eligibility, which is based on federal poverty guidelines.
Filing late can jeopardize acceptance before a court appearance if the applicant left something out. It also gives Soucia less time to work with the client.
"I need to know what's going on; it gives me some time to do something," Soucia said. "In some cases they have a defense and they didn't do anything wrong, so maybe we should be looking into talking to the district attorney or the Department of Social Services and saying, 'look, there really isn't even a case here.' At the last moment, there might not be time to do that."
Soucia said anyone with questions can visit the Franklin County government website.
Contact Shaun Kittle at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.