In the face of an economic recession and budget constraints, states are finding it more difficult to provide a constitutionally mandated public defense attorney for indigent criminal defendants.

An $11 million shortfall in North Carolina’s Office of Indigent Defense budget could have a ripple effect throughout the state’s criminal justice system.  Public defenders handle about 32 percent of indigent cases, and the Office of Indigent Defense Services contracts with private attorneys to handle the rest. But the 2011 fiscal year shortfall puts that legal service in jeopardy.