Commentary the Hidden Cost of Crime for the Taxpayer

Besides the obvious costs of crime, lives lost, the expense of law enforcement and prisons, there is the cost of actually prosecuting the criminals that is sometimes overlooked.

The full burden is squarely on the shoulders of the taxpayers, including the costs to defend many of these criminals. For criminals with no monetary resources, the job of defending them is often left up to the public defender who is generally paid by the county. The county in turn, receives its revenue from the taxpayers of said county. In addition, the district prosecutor is generally paid directly by the state but the county may pay many of his employees also.

So, you have the prosecutors who are paid by the taxpayers and the public defender who is also paid by the taxpayers. There can also be special circumstances where it may become even more costly. Let us say you have a murder trial where there are two defendants who are both indigent, and a public defender is assigned to try the case. The public defender can only represent one of the defendants, so another attorney must be appointed. If the county is small and there is only one public defender, you have to enter into the private sector and find an attorney to represent the second defendant. That attorney will bill the county for his legal services.

Now you are looking at a defense that will cost the taxpayers of that county hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. In addition, if convicted, there are the costs of the appeals, etc., all billable to the county. These expenses are unavoidable and must be factored in when discussing the costs of crime however, there are costs that can be greatly reduced by a little forethought by the prosecuting attorney.

The main avenue for examining outlandish expenditures that is available to the taxpayers is to keep an eye on your local prosecutor. As in the case of Duke Prosecutor Michael Nifong, his political greed got the best of him and it has cost the taxpayers of Durham County plenty. There are some cases that must be prosecuted and go to trial, without a doubt, but there are many more that should be dismissed or that can be settled with a plea deal and an intelligent prosecutor knows the difference.

When I see a prosecutor who goes to all the expense of expediting a convicted criminal from another state, who is already incarcerated there, for similar charges so that they may be charged again, I have to wonder what his motivation is. Unless there is a victim, or perhaps restitution that needs to be collected we should think twice about returning these criminals back into our home states. While cost alone should not be the sole reason whether or not to prosecute someone, I believe it should be taken into consideration. If you have a drug dealer who is currently serving a 20-year sentence in another state, what benefit is there to expediting him so that he may receive a conviction here?

What is best for the state and all the parties concerned should be the question on every prosecutor’s mind and not whether he receives another conviction notch in his belt.