1997 Regular Session
To: Judiciary B; Appropriations
By: Representative Watson
House Bill 1013
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 25-32-1, 25-32-3, 25-32-5, 25-32-7 AND 25-32-17, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ESTABLISH AN OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER IN EACH COUNTY; TO PROVIDE FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER; TO PROVIDE FOR THE QUALIFICATIONS AND TERM OF OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER; TO AUTHORIZE THE APPOINTMENT OF ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDERS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE COMPENSATION OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER; TO CREATE A NEW CODE SECTION TO BE CODIFIED AS SECTION 25-32-21, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CREATE A PUBLIC DEFENDERS FUND IN EACH COUNTY DEPOSITORY AND TO PROVIDE FOR COLLECTION OF ASSESSMENTS IN CERTAIN CRIMINAL CASES FOR THE PURPOSE OF HELPING DEFRAY THE EXPENSES INCURRED BY THE COUNTY IN OPERATING THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC DEFENDER; TO REPEAL SECTION 25-32-15, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, WHICH AUTHORIZES THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, IN THEIR DISCRETION, TO TERMINATE THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC DEFENDER; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 25-32-1, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-32-1. From and after October 1, 1997, there shall be established an office of public defender in each county of the state. The board of supervisors of each county * * * shall provide office space, personnel and funding for the office, and shall perform any and all functions necessary for the efficient operation of such * * * office to the end that adequate legal defense for indigent persons accused of crime shall be provided at every critical stage of their cases as an alternative to court appointed counsel. * * * The public defender shall be full time. * * *
SECTION 2. Section 25-32-3, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-32-3. (1) The public defender shall be an attorney who has actively engaged in the practice of law for not less than three (3) years. The senior circuit court judge of the circuit court district within which the county is located shall appoint the public defender for a term of four (4) years * * * from a list of two (2) or more attorneys recommended by the county or regional Bar Association. In the event a vacancy shall occur in the office of the public defender, * * * the senior circuit judge * * * shall appoint another person to serve as public defender until the end of the regular term of office.
(2) Assistant public defenders may be authorized by the board of supervisors. * * * The public defender shall appoint all assistant public defenders. Such assistant public defenders may be full time or part time and shall be compensated in such an amount as may be authorized by the respective board of supervisors; provided, however, that in no case may such assistant public defenders receive compensation in an amount greater than that received by the public defender.
SECTION 3. Section 25-32-5, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-32-5. The annual salary of the public defender must be equivalent to the annual salary of the district attorney and must be payable monthly on chancery clerk's warrant drawn on the general fund of the county. * * * No * * * public defender or full-time assistant public defender shall engage or be associated with any person in the private practice of law. Part-time * * * public defenders may engage in the private practice of the law as long as such practice does not relate to the prosecution of criminal matters.
SECTION 4. Section 25-32-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-32-7. The public defender shall be provided with office space, secretarial assistance, and all reasonable expenses of operating the office, at least equal to * * * the district attorney. * * * The compensation and expenses of the public defender's office shall be paid by the county. * * * The funds shall be paid upon allowance by the board of supervisors by order spread upon the minutes of the board.
SECTION 5. Section 25-32-17, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-32-17. The * * * administrative staff, office space and secretarial assistance shall not be reduced or diminished but may be increased during the term of the public defender.
SECTION 6. The following shall be codified as Section 25-32-21, Mississippi Code of 1972:
25-32-21. (1) There is created in the county depository of each county a special fund to be known as the "public defenders fund," in which shall be deposited all monies as shall be collected under the provisions of subsection (2) of this section. Unexpended amounts remaining in the special fund at the end of a fiscal year shall not lapse into the county general fund, and any interest earned on amounts in the special fund shall be deposited to the credit of the special fund. The clerk of the board of supervisors, upon approval by the board of supervisors, may make disbursements and withdrawals from the fund in order to help defray the costs and expenses incurred by the county in establishing, operating and maintaining the office of public defender in the county, including the salary of the public defender, secretarial and clerical assistance for the office of public defender and other reasonable and necessary expenses as the county shall incur in complying with the provisions of this chapter.
(2) Whenever a fine is imposed or a bail forfeiture is ordered in a justice court, county court or circuit court of this state as a penalty for violation of a criminal law of this state or a criminal ordinance of a county, except an ordinance relating to vehicles unlawfully left or parked, an assessment in addition to the fine or bail forfeiture shall be collected by the clerk of the court and forwarded to the county treasurer to be deposited in the public defenders fund created under subsection (1) of this section. The amount of the assessment shall be as follows:
(a) When the fine or forfeiture is Twenty Dollars ($20.00) to Forty-nine Dollars and Ninety-nine Cents ($49.99)
(b) When the fine or forfeiture is Fifty Dollars ($50.00) to Ninety-nine Dollars and Ninety-nine Cents ($99.99)
(c) When the fine or forfeiture is One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) to One Hundred Ninety-nine Dollars and Ninety-nine Cents ($199.99) $ 7.00
(d) When the fine or forfeiture is Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) to Four Hundred Ninety-nine Dollars and Ninety-nine Cents ($499.99) $10.00
(e) When the fine or forfeiture is Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) to Nine Hundred Ninety-nine Dollars and Ninety-nine Cents ($999.99) $20.00
(f) When the fine or forfeiture is One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) to Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) $25.00
(g) When the fine or forfeiture is in excess of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), five percent (5%) of the fine or forfeiture.
(3) When any deposit of bail is made for an offense to which subsection (2) of this section applies, the person making the deposit shall deposit a sufficient amount to include the assessment prescribed in subsection (2) of this section. If bail is forfeited, the assessment shall be forwarded to the county treasurer who shall deposit the assessment in the public defenders fund.
SECTION 7. Section 25-32-15, Mississippi Code of 1972, which authorizes the board of supervisors, in their discretion, to terminate the office of the public defender, is repealed.
SECTION 8. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after October 1, 1997.