Client Fees for SPD Representation

The Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office (SPD) is required to assess attorney fees in adult cases. The fees collected help to offset the cost to taxpayers for agency operations.  Although clients of the SPD have limited income and assets, many are able to reimburse the state taxpayers for part of the cost of the legal representation furnished to them.

The fees are set by administrative rule for each case type.  The fees are based on the average length and complexity of the different types of cases; they are not calculated on an hourly basis in each individual case.  For each case type, there is a maximum (full) payment amount and a lower prepayment amount.  At the beginning of their representation, clients are given payment envelopes and told the applicable payment amounts.

By paying the prepayment amount within 60 days, clients can satisfy their payment obligations for an amount substantially less than the full payment amount.  As an example, the prepayment amount in a misdemeanor case is $60 whereas the full payment amount is $240.

Clients who are unable to make any payment may complete a financial form to defer their payment obligation.  If a client's financial circumstances were to improve in the future, the SPD will seek payment at that time.

For more information regarding client fees for SPD representation, clients may contact the Collections and Verification Unit at 1-800-445-2230, or 17 S. Fairchild, Madison, WI 53703.


Frequently Asked Questions

Will I owe a fee for my SPD attorney?
YES - Fees are based on the WI State Statute you are being charged with.  During your initial contact with SPD staff, the discount amount and full assessed amount will be identified for you and documented on the payment envelope. 

Why do I have to pay for a Public Defender? 
It is mandated by law, specifically Wisconsin State Statutes 977.075. 

Why am I being assessed more than one fee? 
The SPD assesses a fee for each case.  If a client receives multiple charges on separate complaints, more than one fee is assessed. 

Does the money I pay go to my attorney?
No, the money is used to cover administrative costs of the representation.

Who is my Public Defender? 
Clients may obtain this information by contacting the local SPD Office assigned to the case. 

How can I get a different attorney? 
The SPD staff at the assigned local SPD Office will assist the client with this request. 

How can I contact my attorney? 
The SPD staff at the assigned local SPD Office will assist the client with this request. 

Can I have my fee waived if I cannot afford to pay?
 - Fees are not waived based on a person’s financial situation.

How will I know exactly what fee to pay and when it needs to be paid?
You will receive a payment envelope from the local SPD office that will be handling your case.  Approximately three weeks later you will receive a reminder letter from the SPD Client Accounts and Verification Unit (CAVU) informing you of the prepay amount (discounted fee), and the full assessed amount (if the discount amount is not paid by the due date), time frame for paying, and what to do if you believe you can not pay any amount.

What is the discount amount?
The discount amount is the designated amount that needs to be paid within 60 days of your case being opened in the SPD computerized system.  If you pay the discount amount, you will owe nothing further.  

What if my payment arrives after the due date? 
The SPD uses the postmark date when entering payments.  Per Act 129, the SPD can accept payments 60-120 days after the envelope date.

What if I can not afford to pay the discount amount within 60 days?
You can call the Client Accounts and Verification Unit and request a one time only extension of up to 60 additional days. If the discount amount is received within the 60 day extension period you will owe nothing further.

What if I can not pay the discount amount in one payment?
Partial payments are accepted as long as the full prepay amount is received within the initial 60 day period or you have requested an extension of 60 days to pay the discount amount.

 What form of payment is accepted?

  •         Check             
  •         Money Order
  •         Credit/Debit Card
  •         Cash

Check or money order can be sent in the mail to the SPD Client Accounts Office, PO Box 7923, Madison, WI 53707-7923.  Cash payments are only accepted at the SPD Administration Office located at 17 S. Fairchild Street, 5th Floor, Madison, WI.  Debit/Credit card payments are accepted by calling 800-445-2230 (NOTE: there is a $2.50 processing fee).

Can I pay with a credit or debit card over the phone? 
Yes, the SPD is able to accept debit or credit cards, as well as prepaid cards, as long as the card is either an American Express, Visa, or MasterCard.  There is a $2.50 processing fee charged to the client in addition to the fee that is owed to SPD.  The processing fee goes to the SPD's service provider to cover the cost of the transaction.  Clients can make a payment to the SPD over the phone by calling the toll-free number 1-800-445-2230.

What if I don't have a debit or credit card?
A client's payment can be in the form of a cashier’s check, money order, personal check or cash. The check or money order must be made payable to the State Public Defender and mailed to the SPD at P.O. Box 7923, Madison, WI 53707.  Cash is only accepted at the SPD's Administration Office located at 17 S. Fairchild Street, 5th Floor, in Madison, WI.

May I have an extension to pay? 
According to Act 129, Wisconsin State Statute 977.075, the SPD can extend the due date for up to sixty days. You may contact the SPD by calling 1-800-445-2230 or mailing your correspondence to SPD at P.O. Box 7923, Madison, WI 53707-7923 

What if I can not afford to pay any amount, due to limited or no income, or incarceration for an extended period of time?
An Ability to Pay (ATP) form will be sent to the address you have provided the SPD (please make sure to provide a current address and if you move please contact the CAVU to update your address).  You will need to fill out the ATP form completely and return it to the address identified on the form (Client Accounts and Verification Unit located in Madison).

After I have submitted the completed ATP form what happens?
The form must be received by CAVU within 120 days from the date you were issued your payment envelope.  When the ATP form is received by CAVU it will be assessed based on the information you provided, a determination will be made using set criteria as to whether you qualify for “Unable to Pay” status.  If however, the form is not filled out completely or should a discrepancy be determined, the form will be returned to you for further clarification.  You will have an additional 30 days to return the form with updated information.

What happens if I am found “Unable to Pay”?
If you are found unable to pay based on the set criteria your account will be marked “Unable to Pay”, the fee will be deferred at the full assessed amount.  If at some point your financial situation changes and you are able to make payments you will need to contact SPD to set up a payment plan.  Your account will not be forwarded to the private collection agency.  It will remain in “Unable to Pay” status, at the full assessed amount, the SPD reassesses your ability to pay, until either you have made payment arrangements or the account has reached the total number of years unpaid and meets the criteria for the debt to be written off.

What happens if I am found Able to Pay?
You will receive notice stating that you were found able to pay.  If your case has not been assigned an attorney you will receive notice that you do not meet the criteria to receive SPD services.  If an attorney has already started working on your case you will be expected to make payment to the SPD.  Payment must be received within 120 days for the discounted amount to be accepted.  If the discount amount is paid by the due date you will owe nothing further.  If payment is not received by the due date the fee will be then be assessed at the full assessed amount, and forwarded to the private collection agency for further collection efforts.

What happens if I hire a private attorney, will I owe a fee to SPD?
If an SPD assigned attorney has performed any work on the case you will owe a fee.  The fee is based on the criminal charge and the total number of hours the assigned attorney has worked on the case.  The more time the attorney has worked on the case the higher the fee will be assessed (the fee will range from the discount amount to the full assessed amount).

What happens if I do not pay the prepay fee and I do not qualify for “Unable to Pay” status?
You will have 60 days to pay the discount amount.  You can request a one time extension for up to an additional 60 days (for a total of 120 days).  After 120 days the fee is assessed at the full assessed amount (the higher amount indicated on your payment envelope).  After 150 days if no payment has been received by CAVU the account will be sent to the State’s private collection agency for further collection efforts.

Why was my account sent to a private collection agency? 
All accounts that are not paid within 150 days from the envelope date are sent to the private collection agency,United Collection Bureau, for further collection efforts.

What happens once the unpaid fee has been forwarded to the private collection agency?
The collection agency will notify you that they are now servicing your debt.  The notice will provide contact information so that you can make arrangements with them on a payment plan. If you do not make payment to them within 60 days, the collection agency will forward this debt to the Credit Bureau and the debt will remain on your credit history as a debt owing until such time that the debt has been paid.

Once I have paid the debt that has been forwarded to the private collection agency and reported to the Credit Bureau how can I get the debt removed from my credit history (show as having been paid)?
You need to request a letter of satisfaction from the private collection agency.  You can also request a payment history from CAVU for the specific account showing that the fee has been paid and the account has a zero balance due.

What is the private collection agency's address and phone number? 
United Collection Bureau
5620 Southwyck Blvd
Toledo, Ohio 43614
Phone number: 866-298-2384