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Published on Friday, January 18, 2013

WA State Supreme Court: not the intent of the legislature to fund treatment programs for indigent parties

In Washington law, a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor may be considered for a deferred prosecution program if the cause of the crime committed was a result of alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental problems. By deferring the prosecution, the defendant agrees to receive treatment for the problem. Upon completion of the program, the judge may dismiss the charges. Under this same law, funds are required to be appropriated from the court in order to provide investigation, examination, reports and treatment plan for an indigent person unable to pay.

 A Snohomish County Court case challenged the interpretation of “treatment plan” and whether the legislature intended that public funds be used to pay for the full costs of treatment programs for indigent defendants under these deferred prosecution cases. On January 17, the Washington Supreme Court issued an opinion that the legislature did not intend for public funds to be used for the full course of treatment programs. In this case, two defendants were charged with driving under the influence and requested that the court pay for their substance dependency treatment programs.  

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