Public Defenses Reform and Misdemeanor Reclassification

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1 Public Defenses Reform and Misdemeanor Reclassification

2 Cities Responsibility for Prosecution State law provides that cities are responsible for prosecuting: Violations of city ordinances committed within city limits, State traffic infractions committed within city limits, and State misdemeanors committed within city limits.

3 Counties Responsibility for Prosecution State law makes counties responsible for prosecuting: Violations of county ordinances committed outside of city limits, State traffic infractions committed outside of city limits, Misdemeanors committed outside of city limits, All felonies whether committed inside or outside of city limits, and Other violations of state law (i.e. Fish and Game)

4 Right to Counsel Both the United States and Idaho constitutions guarantee a criminal defendant the right to legal counsel. Since territorial days, Idaho law has provided indigent criminal defendants with the right to legal counsel at public expense. Indigent defense in Idaho has always been funded and administered by counties.

5 Providing Public Defense Eight counties have in-house public defender offices: Ada, Bannock, Bonner, Bonneville, Canyon, Cassia, Kootenai and Twin Falls. 36 counties provide indigent defense by contract: Contract with other counties (Minidoka Co.), Contract with single private attorney or rotating contracts with several private attorneys. Counties budgeted $23 million for public defense in FY2014.

6 Deficiencies of Public Defense in Idaho Justice Fund levies used to support public defense are at statutory maximum in many (18) counties and the system is woefully underfunded. Inadequate qualifications & insufficient training for public defenders. No limits on public defender caseloads, which restricts the amount of time that can be spent on each case. Inadequate resources for investigators & expert witnesses. Oversight has proven challenging for county commissioners.

7 2013 Legislative Public Defense Reform Interim Committee Explored a range of reform topics. Stopped well short of robust reforms. Focused on providing a framework for establishing public defender qualifications, continuing education, and county contracts. House Bill 542.

8 House Bill 542: Public Defense Act Creation of Public Defense Commission Oversee qualifications and continuing education of public defenders. Oversee county contracts. Promulgate rules, make recommendations to Legislature. Hire staff. Funding for basic continuing education program.

9 House Bill 542 (cont.) County Public Defense Delivery. Eliminated flat fee contracts. Allows counties to create an internal public defense office, contract with a neighboring county, or contract with a private public defense attorney (or firm). Provided no state funding for public defense. Provided no levy cap relief for public defense.

10 Public Defense Commission Organized in August Members appointed by Governor and include representatives from the House, Senate, Idaho Association of Counties, Juvenile Justice Commission, State Appellate Public Defender, and private public defense attorney. Hired executive director and support staff. Working to develop basic employment requirements for public defenders, continuing education programs, contracting best practices, and data collection metrics to assess performance.

11 2014 Interim Committee Cities & Counties recommended state administered and at least partially state funded system. Committee remained committed to local control. Looked at funding options including some state funds, lifting some levy caps, distribution of fine revenue, and funding from cities, but ultimately made no recommendation concerning increased funding. Did support legislation to reclassify various state law misdemeanors as infractions.

12 2014 Interim Committee, cont. Some committee members were interested in requiring cities to pay for public defense associated with city ordinance violations. AIC presented survey info showing that in most cities misdemeanor citations for city code violations comprise 3% or less of total misdemeanor filings.

13 2014 Interim Committee, cont. Coeur d Alene and Twin Falls provided more detailed information on the number of misdemeanor cases for city code violations that required a public defender. This was 1.2% of all misdemeanor cases filed in Twin Falls and.6% in Coeur d Alene. This info was critical in convincing legislators that legislation to require cities to pay for public defense was not a meaningful solution.

14 Case Filings by Jurisdiction What data is missing from the table below? Jurisdiction Misdemeanors Infractions City 60,485 59% 117,799 50% County 21,373 21% 40,385 17% State 20,298 20% 76,925 33% Total 102, % 235, %

15 Perils of City Based Public Defense Cities lack the fiscal resources and technical expertise to operate a city public defense system. Mt. Vernon and Burlington, WA are perfect examples. Challenged by Justice Department over inadequate public defense. Now operate under a court ordered system. (Municipal court)

16 Misdemeanor Reclassification We can help reduce costs for public defense, courts and prosecution by reclassifying low level criminal misdemeanors as infractions. Infractions are civil fines of up to $300 (formerly maximum penalty was $100). City codes usually have a general penalty provision until cities received authority to impose infraction penalties in 2000, all ordinance violations were misdemeanors. Good candidates for reclassification include: Barking dog, dog at large, & dog license violations, Open container violations, alcohol in parks, etc.

17 Stop Mirroring State Code In the past some city ordinances adopted the Idaho traffic code and other state codes (by reference). Cities do not have to cite under city code to receive fine revenue. Don t duplicate state code offenses with similar city ordinances. Cities that cite under state law will not stand out as heavy users when compared to cities that cite for a similar offense under a city code.

18 Why Does This Matter? Cities are already hard pressed to fund law enforcement and prosecution costs. The situation will be even more challenging if scarce general fund revenue must be dedicated to public defense. We must show the Legislature that we are doing everything possible to save money on public defense.

19 What Can Cities Do? Reclassification to infractions Provide for tiered offenses, if necessary Eliminate duplications similar to state law

20 Potential Impacts Costs associated with reclassification (attorney time, publication, and codification. Fine revenues. Avoid potential costs of incarceration. Political ramifications.

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