Since 1989, The Indiana Public Defender Commission has served to recommend standards for indigent defense in capital cases, to adopt guidelines of salary and fee schedules for individual county reimbursement eligibility, and to review and approve requests for reimbursement in capital cases. In 1993, the responsibility of the Commission was expanded to include the adoption of guidelines and standards for county reimbursement eligibility in non-capital cases.
The Commission is comprised of 11 members: 3 are appointed by the Governor; 3 are appointed by the Chief Justice; 1 member is appointed by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute; 2 are members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House; and 2 are members of the Senate appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate.
The entire Commission meets quarterly to review claims, authorize reimbursement to eligible counties and discuss issues in keeping with the Supreme Court and the Legislature's intent to provide the highest quality indigent criminal defense possible.
In capital (death penalty) cases, counties may receive reimbursement for 50 percent of applicable expenses. In accordance with Criminal Rule 24(C)(1), the Chief Administrative Officer of the Office of Judicial Administration adjusts the hourly rate paid in capital cases biennially. The present rate for cases is $129 per hour for cases filed, or remanded after appeal, on or after January 1, 2021 (previously $124/hour).
In other felony and juvenile criminal cases, eligible counties may receive up to 40 percent reimbursement for indigent criminal defense costs conditioned upon compliance with guidelines and caseload standards. The Fund began with an appropriation of $650,000. Today, appropriations to the Public Defense Fund total $29.78 million (FY 2020). Currently, 71 of 92 counties have comprehensive plans approved by the Commission for delivery of indigent services and 66 of those counties are eligible for reimbursement in non-capital cases.