Reimbursement of Defense Costs as a Condition of Probation for Indigents

It is extremely difficult to obtain precise information concerning the prevalence of this practice. There is only one reported case on the subject, and empirical evidence is almost wholly lacking because of the wide discretion granted sentencing courts in imposing probation conditions, and because of the reluctance of appellate courts to review the exercise of that discretion. However, courts have frequently imposed costs on nonindigent probationers, and in many jurisdictions the statutes which authorize such a probation condition with respect to solvent probationers seem broad enough to include indigents as well. Moreover, two recent studies have unearthed specific data which verify that the condition is, in fact, being imposed on unsuccessful indigent defendants in a number of jurisdictions, both federal and state. Clearly, then, at least some courts have required reimbursement by indigent defendants as a condition of probation. The purpose of this Comment is to examine the constitutional validity and practical wisdom of imposing such a condition.