Indigent defense orientation workshop for new judges
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Indigent Defense: Orientation Workshop for New Judges. Jim Bethke, Director Task Force on Indigent Defense [email protected] office: 512.936.6994 January 23, 2007. Today’s Agenda. Indigent Defense – Who Cares?! The Basics – What You Need to Know.

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Indigent Defense: Orientation Workshop for New Judges

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Indigent Defense:Orientation Workshopfor New Judges

Jim Bethke, Director

Task Force on Indigent Defense

[email protected]

office: 512.936.6994

January 23, 2007

Today’s Agenda

  • Indigent Defense – Who Cares?!

  • The Basics – What You Need to Know.

  • Money – How to Make the Most of it.

Quote from Judge Manning . . .

“No one, especially law-abiding taxpaying citizens, likes the idea of spending government money defending criminals. Many in fact are guilty . . . It’s hard to understand when schools are underfunded, children are without health care, roads are in disrepair, that taxpayer dollars must compensate LAWYERS representing thieves, rapists, murderers, and child molesters.

Quote from Judge Manning . . .

“Yet we need once again to focus on what we do and why we do it. Justice is not and has never been a result. Justice is a process. Whatever the result may be, its propriety, its efficacy is determined by the fairness, honesty and decency of the process, the path we travel to the outcome, not the outcome itself. Those accused may well not be thieves, rapists, murderers and child molesters, but for the opportunity to establish so with assistance of competent counsel.”

Constitutional Requirements

  • Sixth Amendment provides:

    • “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial. . .and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”

  • Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963):

    • “In our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.”

Texas Fair Defense Act (2001)

  • The Basics:

    • Conduct prompt magistrate proceedings

    • Determine indigence according to standard in local plan

    • Establish minimum attorney qualifications

    • Appoint of counsel promptly

    • Institute a fair, neutral, and non-discriminatory attorney selection process

    • Promulgate standard attorney fee schedule and payment process

  • Local Reporting Requirements:

    • Submit new/revised local indigent defense plan every other year

    • Submit annually local indigent defense expenditures

Front-End Duties $$$

  • Law Enforcement Timely appearance at 15.17

  • Magistrate/Judge Timely hearing & appointment

  • Law EnforcementTimely completion of report

  • ProsecutorEarly screening of complaints

    Timely Indictment/Information

  • Judge w/Jurisdiction Timely Arraignment

Study: Determining Indigence and Verification of Financial Info

  • Study to assist counties implement effective indigence screening processes

  • Conducted with professors from UT-Dallas and UT-Southwestern

  • Study Counties:

    • Collin

    • Tarrant

    • Van Zandt

    • Denton

Study: Determining Indigence and Verification of Financial Info

  • Study includes data collection using a verification process that includes employment and property records to determine:

    • Time and Cost of verification

    • Whether and when verification is cost effective

    • Best way to incorporate verification into screening process

    • Resources available to assist counties with verification

  • Data collection is slower than anticipated so completion of study is now expected in Spring

State and Local Challenge

  • Develop a cost-effective indigent defense delivery system…

  • That meets the needs of the local community and…

  • Satisfies the requirements of the Constitution and State law.


Direct Electronic Filing Study: Closing the Paper Trap


Provide practical evidence-based guidance for jurisdictions to follow in implementing criminal justice processes that are fair, accurate, timely, efficient, and effective.


There should never be a rush to judgment. Processes should ensure that defense counsel and prosecutors alike have amble opportunity to develop their cases.

Direct Electronic Filing of Criminal Cases

  • Case management strategy;

  • Automates case screening and filing;

  • Shares information among multiple users (law enforcement, prosecutors, and courts).

Overview of the Study Sites

Cases Disposed

within three days of arrest

I. Cases Disposed within Three Days of Arrest

Minimum COUNTY savings:$653 per defendant

Estimated PERSONAL savings:$646 per defendant

El Paso-DIMS Cases Rejected Prior to Booking

  • 19% of El Paso’s DIMS cases were reviewed and rejected for prosecution at the scene of offense. Harris County estimates a minimum 10% case rejection rate prior to booking.

I. Cases Disposed within Three Days of Arrest

Percent of Defendants with

Cases Disposed within 3 Days of Arrest

Charges filed in avg.10 hours

Charges filed in avg.34 hours

  • When charges were available quickly, sites with direct electronic filing could dispose of 15% to 25% of cases within 3 days.

I. Cases Disposed within Three Days of Arrest

* Includes all misdemeanor cases except warrant cases where filing was made prior to arrest.

Mean Days from Arrest until Prosecutor

Receives Law Enforcement Report*

  • Lengthy delay in transferring offense reports to the prosecutor can make it difficult for manual case processing systems to quickly dispose cases.

  • DIMS speeds case information to decision-makers.

Cases Bonded

within three days of arrest

Cases Detained

three after days after arrest

III. Cases Detained Three Days after Arrest

Percent of Cases Detained in Jail

Longer than 3 Days after Arrest

  • DIMS sites held fewer defendants in pre-trial detention.

III. Cases Detained Three Days after Arrest

Median Days from Arrest to Release for Defendants Detained in Jail Longer than 3 Days

Average cost of detention:

$190 per defendant

$228 per defendant

$568 per defendant

$751 per defendant

  • DIMS defendants remain in jail half as long.

  • The combined effect of fewer individuals detained plus fewer days of detention reduces jail costs by up to 75 percent.

Direct Electronic Filing System

model elements

Elements of a Model Criminal Direct Electronic Filing System

Technological Features

Work Practices

Benefits Of Direct Electronic Filing

OUTCOME:Enhanced Defendant Rights

  • Fewer defendants are detained on charges that cannot be successfully prosecuted.

    • No costs of arrest

    • No attorney fees

    • No bond fees

    • No lost wages

    • No family disruption

    • No loss of freedom

  • Defendants that are successfully prosecuted can meet their legal obligations and resume their lives without delay.

  • Benefits Of Direct Electronic Filing

    OUTCOME:Improved Quality of Legal Defense

    When offense reports are submitted timely and reviewed promptly:

    • Defense counsel can have a more meaningful dialog with client and prosecuting attorney.

    • Charges can be resolved expeditiously.

    Benefits Of Direct Electronic Filing

    OUTCOME:Improved Case Quality for the State

    • Prosecutors can identify missing information while witnesses are still present at the scene of the offense.

    • Automated templates and online references to criminal code improve speed, accuracy, and consistency of prosecutors’ charges.

    • Furthers the interests of the public, including victims and witnesses, in the fair, accurate, and timely resolution of criminal cases.

    OUTCOME:Cost Savings to the Public

    Benefits Of Direct Electronic Filing

    • Cases lacking evidence to prosecute are screened out at arrest.

      • No defendant transportation

      • No jail book-in

      • No housing costs

      • No court appointed counsel costs

      • No prosecution expenses

  • Officers spend more time in the field.

  • With an offense report and a filing occur quickly, 15 to 25 percent of cases are disposed quickly.

    • Clears jail cells

    • Reduces court dockets

  • Summary

    • Direct electronic filing successfully:

      • Increases system-wide efficiency;

      • Improves communication;

      • Frees resources needed to strengthen the criminal justice system;

      • Provides a more cost-effective way of doing business.

    Money Information $$$

    Bryan Wilson,

    Grant Administrator

    Task Force on Indigent Defense


    [email protected]

    Vertical View


    Redundant Data Entry

    Focus on Department vs Process

    Point Finger/Place Blame

    Horizontal View


    Share & Update

    Decision Focused

    Problem Solving/Collective Responsibility

    Two Models of Justice System Management

    Key to Success

    Shift focus from individual players to the entire process.

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