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Published on Friday, April 5, 2013

AWC proposes funding options for public defense

In response to rising public defense costs and limited funding assistance, cities and counties have developed a proposal to take a portion of the traffic ticket revenue that locals pass on to the state and redirect it toward public defense funding.

Each year, cities request almost $2 million in funding assistance from the Office of Public Defense (OPD), which administers an annual grant program. However, the amount allocated annually for this grant has remained around $600,000 for many years. (For 2013, the funding assists the cities listed here.)

More challenges were added by the indigent defense standards adopted in 2012 by the State Supreme Court. The new standards set caseload limits for public defenders, which is driving up public defense costs.

Cities and counties need assistance from the state to meet this requirement and have developed a plan to take existing funding provided to the state general fund through traffic ticket revenue and redirect it to OPD to assist local governments with public defense costs.

Current law assigns a $20 surcharge on all traffic tickets. That $20 is split between state and local governments. However, 32 percent of the local portion ends up going back to the state through various charges. As a result, of the original $20, the state receives $12.18 and local governments receive $7.82. With AWC’s proposed redirection of a portion of those allocations, the state would continue to receive a total of $11.50 per ticket, but $3.68 of that would be dedicated to public defense funding to help local governments offset the costs. This is not new revenue, but rather a reallocation of existing revenue. This change will likely generate $2 to $3 million annually in revenue for public defense funding.

AWC staff is meeting with legislators on this matter and will keep you up to date as it progresses.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Candice Bock or Brittany Sill.

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