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, indigent defense costs have increased 228% from $91.4 million in 2001 to $299.9 million in 2019.
  • In FY 2019, the state funded only about $28.5 million of the total statewide indigent defense costs, while counties contributed approximately $271.4 million (about 90% 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.

Additional Information

  • Support More State Funding for Indigent Defense (Infographic)

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Related Articles

Public defender's office one step closer to becoming a reality in Hays County

Community Impact Newspaper, April 14, 2022

Hays County commissioners Lon Shell and Debbie Ingalsbe announced April 12 the court will choose between two law firms that specialize in running public defender's offices on behalf of area counties to set up an office for the first time in the county.

Commissioners Approves TIDC Grant For Counsel At First Appearance Trial

San Marcos Daily Record, Feb. 19, 2020

The Hays County Commissioner’s Court approved a grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission to participate in a trial examining the effects of counsel on first appearance. The commissioners unanimously, with commissioner Lon Shell absent, approved the grant from the TIDC in the amount...

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Austin Chronicle, Sept. 6, 2019

It's fair to say stakeholders on all sides are celebrating last week's Texas Indigent Defense Commission grant award to Travis County. "I'm super excited about the grant," said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt...

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Denton Record-Chronicle, Feb. 2, 2019

Denton County officials want the state of Texas to start picking up the tab for court-appointed attorneys who are assigned to the county's poorest defendants. As one of their policy positions in the current Texas legislative session, Denton County commissioners agreed...