County could save money by hiring public defenders

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

Oct. 9, 2017 at 9:30 p.m.
Updated Oct. 10, 2017 at 6 a.m.

   advocate file photos for The Victoria Advocate

Victoria County is spending more every year to hire attorneys for people who can't afford them, which means it could be time to consider creating a public defender's office, said District Attorney Steve Tyler.

Right now, Victoria County spends nearly $1 million each year hiring private attorneys for people who can't afford them, according to county data.

Monday, Tyler told county commissioners it could soon be more cost-effective for the county to hire its own defense attorneys instead of paying private ones.

"Justice will always be an expensive proposition," said Tyler.

During the last two decades, the costs to hire defense attorneys for people who can't afford them has skyrocketed across Texas. In Victoria, it's no different.

Even after receiving grants and reimbursements, the county spent about $956,000 hiring private attorneys in 2016 - a number exponentially higher than the $65,000 it spent in 2002, according to county data.

If those trends continue, Tyler expects it will be more cost-effective for the county to hire its own public defenders within the next four years, he said.

Tyler said creating a public defenders office would be cheaper than running the district attorney's office. There aren't as many rules for archiving records, he said.

In the meantime, commissioners agreed Monday to apply for a state grant that would reimburse part of what the county spends to hire attorneys for the public. In the past, the grant has been about $80,000 per year.


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