County Commissioners' Association of Ohio - 88 CCAO - Serving Ohio Counties Since 1880


Indigent Defense Reform

Bills to reform the indigent defense system have been introduced in both chambers this session. HB 186  has been introduced by Representatives Terry Boose and Ron Gerberry and SB 139 has been introduced by Senator Joe Uecker.  The bills initially create a more concise and cost efficient system and eliminate over time the financial burden placed on county governments by:

  • Immediately increasing the reimbursement rate to 50% and increasing that rate by 10% per year over the next 5 years;

  • Giving the State Public Defender supervision over all county systems; and,

  • Developing a regional support system to share support services and help reduce the individual county’s operating costs.

CCAO requests its members to send letters in support of HB 186 and SB 139 to their legislators.  For a draft letter to assist you in drafting such a letter, click here.

Reform of Ohio’s indigent defense system has constantly been a top priority for CCAO.  Our position has emphasized the following key points:

  • Report upon report has concluded that Ohio’s system for providing counsel to indigent defendants is inefficient and ineffective and in need of significant improvements and that an excessive portion of the burden for providing indigent defense has been placed upon and is being borne by the counties.

  • This is an issue of right-sizing government. The state is the most appropriate government to be responsible for the state-wide provision of indigent defense representation.

  • Under the current system, each of Ohio's 88 counties operates its own indigent defense system, which has created discrepancies in the quality, efficiency and cost of representation.

HB 186 has received two hearings before the House State and Local Government Committee.  The committee chair, Terry Blair, is a co-sponsor of the bill and has indicated his intent to hold a series of hearing in the fall and report the bill.  SB 139 has received one hearing to date. 

Testimony on HB 186 and SB 139

Representative Boose's sponsor testimony on HB 186

Senator Uecker's sponsor testimony on SB 139

Tim Young, State Public Defender, Proponent Testimony on HB 136 (Oct 15, 2013)

John Theobald on behalf of Montgomery County Commissioners, Proponent Testimony on HB 136  (Oct 15, 2013)

Meanwhile, the State Budget provisions increased the Reimbursement Rate – HB 59 provides for a minimum reimbursement rate of 40% during the biennium which is an increase of 5% from the 35% reimbursement rate for the previous biennium.  This is based upon an estimated system cost of $125.4 million in FY14 and $128.0 million in FY15.  The system cost for FY12 was $116.8 million and for FY13 was $114.7 million.  The various line item appropriations under the Public Defender budget provide total funds available for reimbursement at $50.2 million for FY 2014 and $51.2 million for FY 2015.  

There has been a steady climb in reimbursement rate over each of the last 3 biennia.  The graph shows the history of reimbursement percentages.