On April 19, 2018, the ACLU-NH, Professor Albert E. Scherr, and New Hampshire Legal Assistance filed a "friend of the court" brief challenging the debt collection practices of the Office of Cost Containment (OCC). The OCC is the State’s debt-collection agency tasked with collecting moneys from people who are too poor to pay for their own criminal defense representation. The OCC is, by definition, tasked with collecting money from people whom the courts have deemed indigent.
In the amicus brief, the ACLU-NH explained that the OCC’s debt collection practices are problematic because they do not comply with the 2017 law aimed at protecting indigent persons from being jailed simply because they cannot pay fees. Under this 2017 law, the New Hampshire legislature commanded, in part, that “[n]o defendant shall be incarcerated after a final hearing for nonpayment of an assessment … unless counsel has been appointed for a defendant who is indigent ....” See RSA 604-A:2-f, I.
In its September 18, 2018 decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed and ruled that the 2017 statute applied to public defender fees owed to the OCC.