The Ability of Criminal Defendants to Afford Counsel in New York

In People v. Koch, 299 NY 378, 87 NE2d 417 (1949), the Court of Appeals held that a court, in deciding a question of whether a criminal defendant qualified for assigned counsel, could not infer that the defendant was able to afford counsel: "Omission to provide assigned counsel is sought to be justified on the theory that the defendant being at liberty on bail at the time of arraignment, an inference arose that he had the ability to procure and pay counsel of his own choosing and nullified any necessity for either inquiry or assignment of counsel. Such circumstance does not justify omission to observe fundamental constitutional safeguards designed to assure a fair trial in a criminal case." (Id. at 381.)