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Murder Cases Pinch County Funds State Public Defender System Suggested By Rathdrum Senator

Idaho’s counties need help from the state to deal with the thousands of dollars needed to prosecute capital crimes, the Idaho Association of Counties says.

The cost of criminal defense and investigation has skyrocketed and the number of murders in Idaho is up.

And with the shadow of property tax reform under the proposed One Percent Initiative, county administrators have been handcuffed while watching fewer tax dollars used up more and more by law and order.

That means counties should start making room for a budgetary line item dedicated for capital crimes.

“I’ve brought it up more than once,” said Sen. Clyde Boatright, R-Rathdrum, the vice chairman of the Idaho Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee.

“A high-profile case is going to cost the county in some other way, like roads or fire,” he said. “I’ve talked about it to a number of legislators and I think a state public defender system is something the counties can get a great deal of benefit out of.”

Boatright believes a state public defender system could be established that is similar to Idaho’s new catastrophic health care system, which leaves counties responsible for the first $10,000 and the state liable for the remainder.

“I think what we should do is treat this as something similar to catastrophic health care,” Boatright said. “There definitely seems to be some support for the state lending a hand.” In Washington, the Legislature just created the Office of Public Defense, which opened its doors July 1.

“We’ve discussed that as long as I’ve been in the Legislature,” said Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow. “One trial in some of the counties that don’t have a lot of the resources can be tremendously costly and overburden the taxpayers. In those cases the state would pay for some over a certain amount.”

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