North Carolina

Quick Guide

  • Cost Per Capita: $12.76
  • State Funding Level: 100% State Funding
  • State Independence: Independent Commission
  • Primary Delivery Model: County-Based System

North Carolina’s indigent defense system includes its Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS Office) and its Commission on Indigent Defense Services (IDS Commission), a 13-member governing body. In 2001, IDS assumed a number of responsibilities, including: 1) overseeing the provision of legal representation to indigent defendants and those entitled to counsel; 2) developing training, qualification, and performance standards for legal services to indigent persons; 3) determining appropriate methods for delivering these services in each judicial district; and 4) providing services in a cost-effective manner.

IDS has expanded the Office of the Capital Defender and created new regional capital defender offices. IDS has also created several new district public defender offices and expanded some existing offices. The North Carolina Public Defenders office employs  full-time, state-paid attorneys. IDS works with the public defenders to develop new policies for appointing counsel in non-capital cases in each district.

IDS is one of the few public defender offices in the nation with a research department (this national trend is largely a product of allocating scarce resources to personnel, with no IT-specific funding assistance to bring defender offices up to par with other agencies). Therefore, IDS is able to use data to accurately inform policymakers about funding resources and issues of parity with the prosecution. North Carolina has created the Systems Evaluation Project to track and measure the results of defender work through quality public defense indicators and cost-benefit analysis.