With the recent passage of 2ESSB 5536, which addressed possession of controlled substances, counterfeit substances, and legend drugs (referred to as PCS), the legislature will allocate funds to the WA State Office of Public Defense (WA OPD) to financially assist certain cities and counties with the expense of defending indigent individuals charged with these offenses in courts of limited jurisdiction. Eligible counties are those with populations of 500,000 or less, and eligible cities are those with populations of 200,000 or less.

As prescribed by the legislature, assistance from WA OPD may take two forms: reimbursement of eligible expenses or designating WA OPD to contract directly with attorneys to provide PCS defense in their jurisdictions. Because this will be a newly developing program, during at least the first year, WA OPD is only able to provide the option of reimbursement of eligible expenses. WA OPD will enter into contracts with interested jurisdictions and reimburse eligible expenses up to the contracted cap amount. The beginning date of the program will be August 15, 2023.

As WA OPD begins to plan for this new program, we are seeking helpful information from cities and counties through an online survey linked below. Please take a few minutes to answer these questions so that we can best plan for the anticipated financial needs of cities and counties statewide. The survey includes questions such as:

  • Is your jurisdiction interested in participating in this program?
  • Approximately how many PCS arrests were made by your local law enforcement in 2019?
  • Approximately how many PCS charges are estimated for your county or city during the period of August 15, 2023 – June 30, 2024?
  • What are the estimated public defense costs associated with defending indigent clients charged with PCS during the period of August 15, 2023 – June 30, 2024?

Take the survey here

A formal application for program participation will be issued in the near future, but your answers to this survey will help us identify which jurisdictions are interested in participation, who the appropriate contact person is in your jurisdiction, and what range of costs/case filings are anticipated. Please respond to this survey no later than Friday, June 16, 2023.

More details about this program are forthcoming. If you have immediate questions or concerns, please direct them to Katrin Johnson, Supervising Attorney – Trial Level Programs.