CANTON -- St. Lawrence County will be receiving $13,700 to help with the cost of defense services in moving serious and violent felony cases through the courts.
The money is coming from the Aid to Defense program of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, it was announced in a press release from the office of St. Lawrence County Public Defender Stephen Button.
The application for the funding came from the public defender’s office with the help of the office of the county administrator.
“We will continue to look for all available funding to assist the indigent in receiving the best representation they can have while simultaneously looking to reduce the burden suffered by the taxpayers of this county, ” said Button.
St. Lawrence County Administrator Karen St. Hilaire said that “this grant will go to assist the county in covering the expenses associated with the County’s 18-B Assigned counsel program.
“Indigent defense is a Constitutional mandate, but the burden falls on county government,” she said. “We appreciate the maintained level of funding which recognizes the challenge we continue to face in meeting this mandate and have made these funds available.”
Since 2011, Button and the office of the Public Defender has received more than $50,000 under the Aid to Defense program to help with the cost of the county’s assigned counsel program.
Under law, each county must have a plan for delivering legal services to the indigent. In St. Lawrence County, indigent legal services are provided for people accused of crimes and those needing help in parent representation through the county Public Defender and Conflict Defender, and through an assigned counsel plan approved by the St. Lawrence County Bar Association.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision (Gideon v. Wainright 1963) places the burden of providing legal counsel for indigent citizens on the state, which has in turn delegated that responsibility to the counties. St. Lawrence County has recently called upon the state to assume complete responsibility for indigent defense due to rising expenses.