Lawyer: Check Whether PD Clients Have $$$


Are criminal defense attorneys losing business to the Public Defenders Office? Are defendents with money being illegally represented by PDs, who are only suppose to represent the poor?

Attorney Ralph Behr wants to find out.  Below is a memo he e-mailed throughout the legal community today.

Is Behr carrying the water for the bail bonds industry?  Does he have a point?

You decide.



January 26, 2010

From: Ralph Behr



The Board of Directors

Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers





TO; The Board of Directors FACDL

 I request the following resolution be placed before the Board for acts:

 Resolved: The Board should act to endorse and support Senator Crist’s investigation into the Public Defender’s acceptance of non-indigent clients. 

 In Broward County the P.D.’s office is jails doing pre-interview intakes and assisting in the preparation of affidavits of indigency.  

Go to the Florida Bar News’ article.   

Go to the following Blog entry of mine. 

Ask any Broward criminal attorney what they know about the local Public Defender’s Office and the rate of non-indigent clients.

 The rate of fraud in “indigent” Public Defender clients is not known and should be investigated.  

 I encourage the Board to act to support Senator Victor Crist in his efforts and to have our own lobbyist act on this issue now.




Ralph S. Behr, P.A.

888 S.E. Third Avenue, Suite 400

Fort Lauderdale , FL 33316

Tel. 954-761-3444

Fax. 954-761-1524


15 Responses to “Lawyer: Check Whether PD Clients Have $$$”

  1. A Problem says:

    Its a minor problem. Most of those in court with PDs are the poorest of the poor.

  2. A big problem actually says:

    Maybe I am missing something here. How can this letter by Ralph Behr mean that he is carrying the water for the bail bondsmen? The bail bondsmen do not get funds based on whether the PD represents the defendant or a private lawyer.

    The real issue here is that there are people who can afford a lawyer and who falsify documents to obtain free lawyers claiming that they are indigent. These are free Lawyers to the defendant but they are paid for by the state, the taxpayers, us.

    I am a defense attorney and I had a client hire me, bounce a check and then wait six months without a lawyer until the judge wanted the case off the docket and would wait no longer for the defendant to raise money. So the judge allowed the defendant to get the PD to represent him. He owned a business. He could afford a lawyer…. he owned a truck, a car etc… Therein lies the tragedy. This is a major issue of fraud on the system.

    FROM BUDDY: Somebody wrote me that this was all part of a plan to steer business to private attorneys, who would then steer clients to their favorite bail bond firms. I think it is far fetched.
    The conspiracy theory might stem from Ralph Behr’s own blog. On it he backed the position of the bail bonds industry on pre-trial release, which the PD office has opposed. Here is the post.

  3. Scrappy Do says:

    It is definitely something worth investigating. PD seems to solicit business in the jail, before a defendant even asks for a lawyer. PD complains about too many cases, but should only do early rep. for those who ask and are indigent.

  4. King Howard says:

    King Howard has been very aggressive about representing anybody who asks for a PD. It expands his kingdom to have more clients and he can moan he doesn’t have enough money.
    A co-defendant in a case I was involved in was represented by a PD and it was discoverd after a few months that he lived in a $500,000 house in Weston. He had equity in that house. He was quietly advised to get a private attorney.
    It happens.

  5. Behr is an idiot says:

    Behr accuses the PD’s of soliciting business by helping people in jail fill out a PD application. If Behr really went to law school, he would be able to look up a statute (that’s called doing research) and see that the legislature mandates the public defender to assist in-custody defendants with their PD application. Buddy – something you should have inquired about before you post such garbage.

    27.52(1)(e)2. If the person seeking appointment of a public defender is incarcerated, the public defender is responsible for providing the application to the person and assisting him or her in its completion and is responsible for submitting the application to the clerk on the person’s behalf.

    Thanks very much for this e-mail.
    I did inquire about it and your point wasn’t mentioned by the lawyer I talked to. In fact, I received this memo from another lawyer who was not Behr who also didn’t mention 27.52.
    So I thank you again for bringing it up. is a place for debate about ideas, however wrong those ideas may be.
    I’m a non-lawyer posting a widely-distributed memo from a lawyer. The memo was addressed to a legal organization.
    Behr’s memo was circulating through the Broward legal world and reached me. If you are right, lawyer Behr should have known about the rules governing PDs before he distributed the memo.

  6. Ralph Behr says:

    Thank you for posting FS 27.52 which states “If the person seeking appointment of a public defender is incarcerated…”
    The Statute says a person seeking appointment it does not state the Public Defender shall seek clients incarcerated by offering representation…that’s called soliciting.

  7. No ManzLand says:

    However,the statute does not call for a pd to go into the jail and speak to everyone, whether they have asked for a lawyer or not, handing out pd apps. for all. That goes beyond “helping someone who asks” with their pd application, and invites abuse.

  8. Ralph Behr says:

    Buddy: after reading the comment of ‘Behr is an idiot’ and your comment I suggest you ad a section to your Blog for your non-english speaking and non-english reading visitors. You and “Behr is an idiot” would benefit from a special page dedicated to those who don’t understand written english or have difficulty grasping the difference between the words “seeking” and “soliciting”. When do I get your apology and the address of your Not-For-English-Reading ?

    Thanks for participating. Your memo brings up an interesting point and I was happy to publish it.
    I think your comment is an attempt to insult me. That’s okay. After more than three decades writing about politics, I’ve been insulted by folks from Washington to Broward.
    However, I never used the word “seeking” or “soliciting.”
    Just to make it clear. Although I like the debate your memo sparked, I couldn’t care less about the PD’s Office. If I needed an attorney, I can afford to pay one.

  9. No Brainer says:

    “I suggest you AD a section….”

    Gee Ralph — which section will you be joining? The non-English spelling visitor?

    Grow a thicker skin man. Your point may be right on, but responding to posters like you’ve done is pretty cheese-ball.

  10. Reality Check says:

    Do we really need to argue about people wanting a “free” lawyer …even if they can afford one??? If you are offered FREE (someone else pays the tap) defense. Would you pay…even if you had the means? Come on seriously (screening is not that complicated)the records are available to the public on the property appraisers website and so on. This extra step may save the taxpayers some $$$$$ in the long run.

  11. Blue Man Scoop says:

    F- for internet skills.

  12. BACDL says:

    Why did Ralph feel it compelling to only send this letter to the FACDL and not the BACDL.

    Does he not wish to have their support or does he feel that he wont have their support? How many meetings of the BACDL has he actually appeared at to voice this opinion?

    I do feel that the issue needs to be addressed as there are some abuses taking place. Especially when you see someone bond out for 15-25g and then get a public defender.

    Buddy, why dont you take some test cases? Why not pull a random 10 people and run back ground checks on them to see what assets if any they possess any assets.

  13. PDs Office Challenged Criticism Years Ago : says:

    […] posted a widely-distributed memo from Behr yesterday, the following letter was e-mailed to […]

  14. AttorneyRSBehrResponds says:

    Think the PD’s so high minded? Follow the money….

    Each applicant for a Public Defender pays a $50.00 application fee.

    The Clerk of the Courts collects it and turns it over to the Public Defender.

    The Public Defender gets $50.00 of the $50.00 application fee. Years ago the Clerk got some of it, no more….

    Now follow the money…..

    On January 26, 2010 the Broward Sheriff’s Booking Register reports 184 new inmates. The Public Defender’s Early Representation Unit earns $50.00 for each inmate that applies for a Public Defender. They don’t return the money if the applicant is denied.

    Do the math: 184 inmates, multiplied by $50.00 each: equals $9,200.00 for ONE DAY. That one day, January 26, 2010, is one of 365 days a year.

    Wow! If the Early Representation Unit is really aggressive and gets all of the new inmates to “apply”, every day, 365 days a year: the total approaches $3,358,000.00
    If they get one half of the inmates to “apply” it’s close to $2,000.000.00.

    By some estimates the Public Defender represents over 85% of all criminal defendants in Broward County. Follow the money….

    And then there’s the split.

    Years ago the $50.00 application fee was shared with the Clerk of the Courts. No more.
    The Public Defenders had the law changed so that they would no longer have to share the $50.00 with the Clerk of the Courts. Now they get all of the money, and they don’t have to check the financial affidavits, they just turn it in. And they won’t inquire if the applicant has financial resources not revealed in the affidavit. It’s not their job, so they say.

    Its all about money, and lots of it. It has less to do with the poor and downtrodden, it has everything to do with money.

    Still doubt it? Where was the Early Representation Unit before the Legislature changed the law to give the $50.00 to the Public Defenders Office? It didn’t exist.

    We don’t give the police a $50.00 fee for each arrest.
    We don’t give a judge a $50.00 fee for each trial.
    But we DO give the Public Defender $50.00 for each “applicant”.

    It is bad policy to give an incentive of $50.00 for each newly arrested person to apply for the Public Defender. And it shouldn’t be inside the jail during the first hours of their arrest.

    And we shouldn’t confuse why the Public Defender is so aggressively approaching newly arrested citizens in jail within hours of their arrest. It’s all about the money.

    The solution is:

    The $50.00 should go to the Clerk of the Courts and be used to do a financial inquiry similar to what a landlord does with a prospective tenant, or a car dealer does when I go in to buy a new car. We are dealing with taxpayer money. There should be some accountability.

  15. Response to Ralph says:

    Ralph –

    Please tell us the amount of time provided for under the United States Constitution a mentally ill destitute homeless person charged with a misdemeanor should sit in a jail cell before they are afforded a right to counsel?

    If the Public Defender’s Office employee does not ask that defendant if they have a lawyer, can afford a lawyer or want to apply for a PD, you know for a FACT that defendant will sit in a jail cell for about a month before being arraigned.

    And at that point, even if that defendant is not guilty of what s/he is charged with, how many will plead out to time served and a conviction just to get out of jail?

    If you want to have a background check performed before an appointment, then get the law changed to require that: (a) every incarcerated individual is to be spoken to by a representative of the PD within 24 hours of arrest to determine whether the incarcerated individual desires the assistance of the PD; (b) that the incarcerated individual makes application and the CLERK performs a routine background check and determines eligibility within 72 hours of the application being submitted; and (c) the PD is appointed upon eligibility being confirmed. The Fee (whether it be $50 to PD and $35 to the Clerk for the background check) gets paid within 30 days after the application, etc.

    Now the PD can run through the jail all they want asking their questions, but only the indigent will be appointed….

    Will this make you happy?

    Or is what you really want that which the PD’s letter originally commented about — having defendants who are presumed innocent of what they are accused of sitting in a jail cell for a few days to see whether a loved one or family friend can come up with a few thousand bucks to hire them a lawyer.