State Public Defender Offers System Upgrade to Ohio Counties

The upgrade consists of case, communication and document management through an online database. It allows county public defender’s offices to communicate more effectively with attorneys and clients.

by Jon Wysochanski, Star Beacon / July 29, 2019
Shutterstock/Proxima Studio

(TNS) — The county public defender’s office is seeing some technology upgrades, through the state public defender’s office, separate from recent indigent defense reimbursement increases counties received under the state budget.

The Ashtabula County Public Defender’s Office received free technology upgrades from the state public defender’s office being provided to county offices across the state. The upgrade consists of case, communication and document management features through an online database.

Matt Trent, assistant public defender with the state public defender’s office, said the system has been installed in 20 other counties, and Ashtabula County makes 21. It allows public defender’s offices to communicate more effectively with attorneys and clients through online databases and features like the ability to text clients.

“The idea was to get consistant, accurate and uniform reports and be able to access them online,” he said.

Lane said the Ashtabula County Public Defender’s Office serves clients who sometimes have cases in contiguous counties.

The new database will allow her office to see which clients have had cases handled by other public defender’s offices, although the details of clients’ cases will only be accessible by the offices handling their particular cases.

The system could impact the way a public defender’s office decides to handle a case by providing information about clients that clients might not always provide to their attorney.

For example, Lane said an attorney in her office may have a client who has been on felony probation for more than a year who picks up a new charge in a municipal court. That attorney may not know about the felony probation if a client doesn’t mention it, a piece of information that would impact how the case is handled.

The improvement in such communication and efficiency for an office that has already had nearly 2,450 cases assigned to it will be huge, Lane said.

“It will allow for better communication between us and other counties about mutual clients,” Lane said.

In some other public defender’s offices already utilizing the system, Trent said decreases in the number of capias warrants have been realized simply because clients can now receive texts through the system from attorneys.

This texting feature will be especially beneficial for the many clients who are transient or do not have stable residencies due to substance abuse or mental health issues, but who do generally have phones with text features, Lane said.

©2019 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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