Possession Cases In Steuben County Putting Public Defenders Over Compliance
By: Beth Swary -
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
ANGOLA – Public defenders in Steuben County need assistance keeping up with the raising number of possession cases they receive from the county.
Steuben County Public Defender James McEntarfer requested two more public defenders in order to keep the number of caseloads per defender at state-mandated compliance levels.
Legal marijuana is purchased in Michigan and brought down into Indiana where both medical and recreational marijuana possession is a crime.
Possession charges are the number one misdemeanor charge on the public defenders' desks with McEntarfer stating 20 of the roughly 23 current misdemeanors are possession chargers.
McEntarfer also said Steuben County public defenders are also some of the lowest paid in the area.
Hiring two more defenders would bring the total number of public defenders to eight contracts.
Potential employees are inquiring about benefits, but benefits are only hiring two more would bring the total number of public defenders to eight contracts.
Steuben County Councilwoman Christina Cress said, “the legal world in this town is on fire.”
McEntarfer said he intends to higher council with less experience to cover the misdemeanor possession charges in order to combat the lack of willing council in the area.
"When I say younger, I am talking about people in their 40's," said McEntarfer.
The cases are assigned by mostly by Steuben County Magistrate Jim Burns.
McEntarfer said slight over reporting on the caseload numbers was possible, but he adamantly said the public defenders are under, "considerable administrative burden."
Steuben County Sheriff R.J. Robinson agreed with the observation from McEntarfer regarding marijuana possession charges driving case increases.
Sheriff Robinson said the jail had over 120 people detained as of Tuesday morning which is over 30 people higher than the previous summer.
Councilwoman Cress pointed out arrests are being made more often in Steuben County than other nearby counties.
"I don't see the number moving," said Robinson, "We all see (marijuana possession) as a crime."
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