At a Glance (as of 2013)
Percentage of state funding: 24%
Percentage of local funding: 76%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%
State commission: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: judicial
Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services
The state of Indiana has three state-funded right to counsel agencies – the Indiana State Public Defender, the Indiana Public Defender Council, and the Indiana Public Defender Commission – but none provides direct trial-level services, and none holds authority to ensure quality at the county level. The Indiana State Public Defender provides representation in post-conviction proceedings (i.e., indigent adults and juveniles who are incarcerated and are challenging a sentence or a commitment). All other direct representation services are county-based, provided through a mixture of traditional public defender offices, contracts with private attorneys, or attorneys appointed on a per-case basis. The Indiana Public Defense Council is a public defense support center, providing training and help-desk assistance to approximately 1,100 public defenders, assigned counsel and contract defenders across the state.
Limited state assistance is provided to counties to help defray costs through the Indiana Public Defender Commission (IPDC) – an eleven-member commission appointed by a diversity of factions [Governor (3 appointments); Chief Justice (3); Speaker of the House (2); Senate President Pro Tempore (2); and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, which is the state’s criminal justice planning committee (1)]. The IPDC promulgates standards related to workload, attorney qualifications, and pay parity, among others, for both capital and non-capital representation. Those counties that meet the IPDC standards are eligible to be reimbursed up to 50% of their capital representation costs and up to 40% of their non-capital costs (excluding the cost of misdemeanors; counties and cities bear the full financial burden for providing defense of the indigent in misdemeanor cases).
State funding for the reimbursement plan has not always kept pace with its intended effect. For example, reimbursements to counties for non-capital representation dropped to a low of 25.1% in 2003-2004. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, however, the Commission was able to raise the reimburse rate for participating counties back up to the state’s intended 40%. But part of the explanation for why the state was able to reimburse counties 40% of their non-capital representation costs is due to the fact that the number of counties receiving reimbursements has decreased over the past decade from a high of 57 counties in 2006-2007 to a low of 48 in 2008-2009. In short, more and more counties have chosen to forego state assistance, opting to cut costs without complying with standards, through flat fee contracts. As of 2014, 54 counties of the state’s 92 (59%) receive reimbursements.
Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff, augmented by a) the American Bar Association, State, County and Local Expenditures for Indigent Defense Services: Fiscal Year 2008, November 2010; b) Indiana Public Defender Commission, Annual Report of the Indiana Public Defender Commission 2013-2014; and c) Indiana Public Defender Commission Recommendations for Reimbursement in Non-Capital Cases, 2014