Public Defense Cases Put Financial Burden on Counties - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Public Defense Cases Put Financial Burden on Counties

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PASCO, Wash.-- The cost for public defense cases, like the Tashia Stuart trial, can be very expensive and it often puts a big financial burden on the county that's left picking much of the tab.

In public defense cases the county and the state take on paying for trial costs.

The Stuart trial added up over $180,000 in fees and the judge ordered Stuart Wednesday to pay for it, but he also sentenced her to 45 years in prison.

Most of the financial burden in these legal situations often falls on the government.

"There's a cost for the counties to enforce those laws and as it stands now, we not only have to pay to enforce them, we also have to pay for the cost of defending the people that are accused," said Brad Peck, Franklin County Commissioner.

Peck says for smaller counties in our state like Franklin County these types of cases can take a big bite out of their annual budget.

Stuart's defense team filed an appeal, which will cost even more and Peck estimates her case could cost $200,000 by the time it's finished.

"A significant hit to our budget. Although the state occasionally gives us a little bit of money back, they never cover all the costs and often times they don't cover any of the costs for these trials. So the burden is real," Peck said.

Defense attorneys want to remind people that the spending supports our justice system and the rights everyone has to a fair trial.

"Would you want your defense to cut corners and cut costs? And the answer is no. Nobody would want that if you're in that position. You have to be very thorough in your investigation. You have to proceed to uncover everything that can be uncovered to give that person the best defense possible," said Shelley Ajax, defense attorney.

Commissioner Peck says he's made a recommendation to the Washington State Association of Counties, proposing a state public defense office to take on the costs and take the burden off of limited county budgets.