Photo by Kindel Media on

In Massachusetts criminal cases, an indigent defendant has a right to all expenses “reasonably necessary to assure [him] as effective a…defense…as he would have if he were financially able to pay.” See Commonwealth v. Lockley, 381 Mass. 156, 160 (1980).

An effective defense often requires the use of expert witnesses, language interpreters, private investigators, or any number of other specialists who can aid the defendant’s case.

Such experts, of course, don’t work for free. So it’s often necessary for an indigent defendant to file a motion with the court, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 261, §§ 27A-27G, requesting funds for the needed service.

The motion should state why the funds are necessary as well as how much money is required. The motion should be accompanied by an “affidavit of indigency” signed by the defendant or his attorney.

The request for funds is a matter that concerns only the court and the defendant; the prosecution typically has no say on issue. According to the SJC,

[T]he prosecution has no proper role to play in a defendant’s motion for defense funds unless the judge requests the prosecutor’s participation.

See Commonwealth v. Dotson, 402 Mass. 185, 187 (1988).

If the defendant fears that the request for funds could expose harm information to the prosecutor, then the defendant may seek to file the motion under seal and have the matter heard by the judge on an ex parte basis.

Should a district court judge deny the motion for funds, the defendant may appeal the decision and have the matter heard by the Appellate Division of the District Court pursuant to M.G.L. c. 276.