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Published on Friday, February 7, 2014

Update on bills that would provide funding for new public defense caseload limits

HB 2497 and its companion SB 6249 would establish various fee increases that would be returned to local governments to help offset the cost of public defense.

Cities have been exploring new funding options since the State Supreme Court adopted a misdemeanor caseload limit for public defenders. Rep. Hunt (D-Olympia) and Sen. Dammeier (R-Puyallup) have introduced legislation giving cities additional funding options. The original bills did the following:

  • Increases criminal conviction fee under RCW 3.62.085 from $43 to $55. Recommended by a Court Funding Work Group in 2005.
  • Allows cities to increase warrant service costs under RCW 10.01.160 from $100 to $175. This fee has not been adjusted since 1995.
  • Allows cities to increase probation service costs under RCW 10.64.120 from $100 per month to $150 per month. These fees have not been adjusted in decades.

SHB 2497 was voted out of committee. The substitute version maintains the above fee increases but further specifies that revenue must be used to support local court operations and criminal justice functions that have a clear connection to indigent defense cases.

SSB 6249 was voted out of committee on February 6 and is now headed to Ways & Means. The substitute version only increases the criminal conviction fee under RCW 3.62.085 from $43-$47, but also has language that AOC will reimburse the city or county from existing resources for no less than $528,000.

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