There are, of course, the realities of today’s economy that we must consider here. Recently, there was a news release that one out of every six dollars that Americans receive comes from a government source. Governments must be extremely careful with their dollars, given the current economic situation.

By revamping the indigent defense statutory scheme, the Florida Legislature undoubtedly was trying to be fiscally responsible to state taxpayers. Indeed, there have been significant budgetary cuts through legislation for state attorney offices and the state court system, as well as the indigent defense bar. The Legislature hasn’t focused on just one segment of the judicial branch’s expenditures. (The Florida Legislature has the power to review and approve court budgets, etc., through specific legislative guidelines, such as Chapter 216 of the Florida Statutes, Court Statutory Budget Controls.)

Still, the Legislature has created a true crisis in its attempts to save money. The situation is grim. The Florida Bar’s Criminal Law Section has hosted more than one “Budget Summit” to try and find a solution to this dilemma, but so far a solution has not been found.

Money has become so tight that even indigent defendants are being charged $100 to cover their own prosecution costs. Think about that. An innocent man, poor and unable to make bail, is being asked to pay $100 to cover the expenses to prove himself not guilty of the charges asserted against him. There’s something just plain wrong about this.

And right now, there is no concrete solution to an exploding problem in this State. This is something that is impacting everyone and we all need to be involved in finding answers here.

Next week: Public Defenders and the OCCCRC Don’t Solve the Problem but Add to the Crisis With their own unmet budgetary needs