Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tifton Gazette: Counties look to trim Indigent Defense Cost

LAWRENCEVILLE (AP) — Gwinnett and Cobb counties have long considered themselves the gold standard of the state’s indigent defense system.

Their programs for defending the poor were fully funded, and they had stockpiles of qualified private attorneys willing to do the work.

But even those counties are not immune to the pressures of the recession. The budget crunch already has caused furloughs for prosecutors and judges in most counties and led to belt-tightening for state-funded public defenders.

Effective this year, Gwinnett is slashing rates for appointed defense attorneys from $75 to $65 an hour for serious felony cases, including murder, rape and armed robbery. For most other cases, rates are being cut from $60 to $55 an hour for time spent in court. Out-of-court rates are remaining at $45 an hour for cases involving less serious offenses.

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