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All data is current as of 2013, unless otherwise noted.
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Read about a particular aspect of the right to counsel in Idaho by clicking on the heading for that issue. Or [Expand All] to see and print from one location all of the facts about the right to counsel in Idaho, then [Collapse All] whenever you need to do so.

How the right to counsel is administered and structured
State commission: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: executive


The Idaho Public Defense Commission was created in 2014 as a seven-person public defense commission within the Department of Self-Governing Agencies – a constitutional provision in Idaho which means that, though the commission is located in the executive branch, the commission does not have to answer directly to the Governor. The commission is considered to have limited authority because it does not oversee appellate services.

Diverse authorities appoint the members of the Idaho Public Defense Commission such that no one branch of government has undue influence over the actions of the commission. The commission consists of: a member of the state senate; a member of the house of representatives; an appointee of the chief justice; and four gubernatorial appointees. Three of the members appointed by the governor must be chosen from names submitted by the Idaho Association of Counties, the State Appellate Defender, and the Idaho Juvenile Justice Commission, and they must be confirmed by the senate. The fourth gubernatorial appointee must be an experienced criminal defense attorney. None of the appointees may be a prosecuting attorney or a current employee of a law enforcement agency.

The commission has the power to hire an executive director and all additional staff the commission deems necessary to complete the work of the commission. Compensation levels for the director and staff are in the sole discretion of the commission. HB 454 directs the commission, director, and staff to immediately address the lack of public defense training in the state, specifically authorizing them to promulgate rules on training and continuing legal education to promote “competency and consistency” for the following case-types: criminal, juvenile, abuse and neglect, post-conviction, civil commitment, capital, and civil contempt. This section is generally regarded as the authority for the commission to set specific performance standards that will inform attorneys about the parameters of ethical performance for each of the enumerated case-types, and then to establish a central training unit to train attorneys to meet those standards.

Felony appellate services (including post-conviction and state habeas cases) have been managed statewide by the State Appellate Public Defender’s Office (SAPD) since 1998. SAPD is an executive branch government agency and the head of SAPD is a direct gubernatorial appointee.

How the right to counsel is funded
Percentage of state funding: 11%
Percentage of local funding: 89%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%

The methods used to provide public counsel
Trial-level indigent defense services are in a transitional period. Some of the state’s more populous counties, including Ada County (Boise) and Kootenai County (Coeur D’Alene), maintain traditional public defender offices with full-time staff attorneys, and another public defender office in Canyon County is set to open in late 2014. Bannock, Bonner, Cassia/Minidoka, and Twin Falls are the only less populous counties that have public defender offices.

Most of Idaho’s 44 counties provide services through contract defenders or assigned counsel systems. The majority of counties have historically used flat fee contracts, however in April 2014, a law was passed banning the use of flat fee contracts.

Legal authority

Idaho Constitution, art. I, § 13

Idaho Code, § 19-801 (notice of right to counsel at first appearance following arrest), and §§ 19-848 through 19-866 (public defense act), and §§ 19-867 through 19-872 (state appellate public defender act)

Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff.