Fuller v. Oregon
417 U.S. 40 (1974)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Fuller v. Oregon, 417 U.S. 40 (1974)

Fuller v. Oregon

No. 73-5280

Argued March 26, 1974

Decided May 20, 1974

417 U.S. 40

Syllabus

Petitioner, who pleaded guilty to a crime and was given a probationary sentence, conditioned upon his complying with a jail work-release program permitting him to attend college and also upon his reimbursing the county for the fees and expenses of an attorney and investigator whose services had been provided him because of his indigency, attacks the constitutionality of Oregon's recoupment statute, which was upheld on appeal. That law requires convicted defendants who are indigent at the time of the criminal proceedings against them but who subsequently acquire the financial means to do so, to repay the costs of their legal defense. Defendants with no likelihood of having the means to repay are not even conditionally obligated to do so, and those thus obligated are not subjected to collection procedures until their indigency has ended and no manifest hardship will result.

Held:

1. The Oregon recoupment scheme does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 417 U. S. 46-50.

(a) The statute retains all the exemptions accorded to other judgment debtors, in addition to the opportunity to show that recovery of legal defense costs will impose "manifest hardship." James v. Strange,407 U. S. 128, distinguished. Pp. 417 U. S. 46-48.

(b) The statutory distinction between those who are convicted, on the one hand, and those who are not or whose convictions are reversed, on the other, is not an invidious classification, since the Legislative decision not to impose a repayment obligation on a defendant forced to submit to criminal prosecution that does not end in conviction is objectively rational. Pp. 417 U. S. 48-50.

2. The Oregon law does not infringe upon a defendant's right to counsel, since the knowledge that he may ultimately have to repay the costs of legal services does not affect his ability to obtain such services. The challenged statute is thus not similar to a provision that "chill[s] the assertion of constitutional rights by penalizing those who choose to exercise them," United States v. Jackson,390 U. S. 570, 390 U. S. 581. Pp. 417 U. S. 51-54.

12 Ore.App. 152, 504 P.2d 1393, affirmed.

Page 417 U. S. 41

STEWART J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 417 U. S. 54. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 417 U. S. 59.

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