Indigent Defense

Indigent defense expenditures are one of the major uncontrollable cost drivers in county budgets. The state should fully fund this unfunded mandate.

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Key Points

  • Texas counties are responsible for the costs of appointed counsel for indigent defendants.
  • Counties are authorized to deliver indigent defense services through a system that best meets local needs.
  • Providing court appointed counsel for indigent defendants is a major uncontrollable expense in county budgets.
  • Since passage of the Fair Defense Act (2001), indigent defense costs have increased 171 percent from $91.4 million in 2001 to $247.7 million in 2016. State grants have covered only a small proportion of those costs.
  • In FY 2014, the state funded only about $31.6 million of the total statewide indigent defense costs, while counties contributed approximately $216.1 million (about 87 percent of the total costs).
  • Additional state funding in the next legislative session would assist counties and their taxpayers in offsetting the costs of this significant unfunded mandate.

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Athens Daily Review, Feb. 7, 2017Henderson County has passed an expensive milestone concerning the cost of indigent defense. County Judge Richard Sanders said the county spent more than $1 million dollars defending those who couldn't afford an attorney in 2016...

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