THOMASVILLE -- Thomas County officials do not know what a newly mandated public defender will cost or where the individual will be housed, but they do know the law requiring the office goes into effect Jan. 1.

Neither do they know how much the new service for certain indigent people charged with crimes will cost.

Officials realize office space must be found, and money to finance the service will come from county coffers.

The public defender will serve State, Magistrate and Probate courts in county government.

Thomas County manager Mike Stephenson told county commissioners Tuesday county government will be required to provide an office for the public defender.

"We have no office space right now," Stephenson told commissioners. Later he said the space must be found by Jan. 1, when the new public defender law goes into effect.

A search is under way for a public defender for the Southern Judicial Circuit, said Jim Hardy, Thomasville-based chief assistant district attorney.

David Miller, Southern Judicial Circuit district attorney, is one of four people named to a circuitwide panel to find a public defender by July 1. Miller is away from his Valdosta office until Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Structuring and staffing of a Thomas County office will parallel that of the district attorney's office here, Stephenson told commissioners.

Some $133,145 is budgeted this year by county government for the office. State government shares in office expenses and salaries.

State Court of Thomas County has $15,000 earmarked this year for indigent defense.

In Thomas County Superior Court, the amount is $165,000.









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