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General Laws

Section 27C. (1) If the affidavit is filed with the complaint or other paper initiating the proceeding, the clerk shall receive the complaint or other paper for filing and proceed as if all regular filing fees had been paid. Such filing shall be conditional until either (a) the affidavit is granted or (b) if the affidavit is denied, the payment of necessary and regular filing fees is made within five days of the denial of the affidavit, or such further time as the court may allow, or within five days of the denial of any appeal relating to the affidavit, whichever is later.

(2) If the affidavit appears regular and complete on its face and indicates that the affiant is indigent, as defined in section twenty-seven A, and requests a waiver, substitution or payment by the commonwealth, of normal fees and costs, the clerk shall grant such request forthwith without hearing and without the necessity of appearance of any party or counsel.

(3) If the affidavit does not appear to satisfy the condition of paragraph (2), the clerk or register shall forthwith bring the affidavit to the attention of the justice or judge, as the case may be. The justice or judge may grant such request forthwith or may have the clerk or register notify the affiant that a hearing will be held on the affidavit within five days. If it appears at the hearing that there is a serious question as to the affiant’s indigency, as defined in section twenty-seven A, then before making a finding of indigency, the court shall consider the following facts with respect to the applicant as of the time of hearing, in the immediate past and with respect to the immediate future; his age, education, training, physical and mental ability and number of dependents; gross and net income; regular and extraordinary expense, if any; assets and liabilities; whether or not he is a recipient of public assistance and for what purposes; and any other facts which are relevant to the applicant’s ability to pay court costs.

(4) If the court makes a finding of indigency, it shall not deny any request with respect to normal fees and costs, and it shall not deny any request with respect to extra fees and costs if it finds the document, service or object is reasonably necessary to assure the applicant as effective a prosecution, defense or appeal as he would have if he were financially able to pay. The court shall not deny any request without first holding a hearing thereon; and if there is an appeal pursuant to section twenty-seven D following a denial, the court shall, within three days, set forth its written findings and reasons justifying such denial, which document shall be part of the record on appeal.

(5) The clerk of each court shall conspicuously post in the part of his office open to the public a notice informing the public in plain language of the availability of waiver, substitution or payment by the commonwealth of fees and costs for indigent persons.

(6) If the court makes a finding that the applicant could reasonably pay part of the normal fees and costs or extra fees and costs, the court may assess a reasonable partial payment towards said fees or costs and a date by which same is to be paid by the applicant. The court shall not order partial payment without first holding a hearing thereon, and if there is an appeal pursuant to section 27D following such an order, the court shall, within 3 days, set forth its written findings and reasons justifying the order of partial payment, which document shall be part of the record on appeal.

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