Limiting the amount of criminal trials benefits you

Limiting the amount of criminal trials benefits you »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- There's always a balance between serving justice and saving money. And now KEPR learned more criminal cases are being resolved without a trial. You might wondering how this benefits you if you have never committed a crime. KEPR found out how we all benefit from fewer trials.

Eric Hsu is in charge of assigning public defenders to criminals who can't afford an attorney. That public defender will advise if the case should go to trial or if a plea deal might be a better option. The indigent defense office says its number-one goal is to make sure justice is done, while also being mindful of dollars and cents.

"It's always a risk going to trial, and so whenever we can resolve things in what we believe to be a fair manner without going to trial, I think everybody in that particular scenario wins," said Hsu.

Last year, all but two or three percent of cases were settled out of court. Those numbers are up a few percent from just a few years ago. That might not seem like much, but Hsu says it makes a huge difference in spending.

"When we have more cases that are resolved earlier on in the process, there really is a resource savings, because right now we are seeing some serious crunches and that's when members of the public will see it."

If the office is tied up with too many trials, Hsu says it could take two hours to get a passport or apply for a marriage license instead of the 30 minutes it should take.

"When they show up for their routine services that they need, they can't get them," Hsu told KEPR.

And while the counties are trying their hardest to limit the amount of trials, there's another issue.

"One trend that's very consistent is the complexity and the severity of the cases. It has been really taking off substantially," said Hsu.

All the more reason why he says it's important to save those limited resources for the more dangerous criminals who might need a lengthy trial.

In the past, when we looked at how the number of trials affected savings, we reported the counties save upwards of $100,000 every year.