Date Requested: January 19, 2015
Time Requested: 09:46 AM
Agency: Public Defender Services
CBD Number: Version: Bill Number: Resolution Number:
1410 Introduced SB59
CBD Subject: Motor Vehicles


FUND(S):

0226

Sources of Revenue:

General Fund

Legislation creates:

Neither Program nor Fund



Fiscal Note Summary


Effect this measure will have on costs and revenues of state government.


     The legislation increases the seriousness of the offense to be charged when a driver of a vehicle that is involved in a crash resulting in a serious bodily injury leaves the scene of the crash without complying with the statutory requirement of rendering reasonable assistance to the injured person. W. Va. Code §17C-4-3. Presently, the offense with respect to a serious bodily injury is a misdemeanor. Under the provisions of this legislation, this offense becomes a felony, subjecting the person charged to imprisonment in a correctional facility for an indeterminate term of one to three years and to imposition of a fine of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500).
    
     In the Fiscal Year 2013 – 2014, Public Defender Services received claims for payment from appointed counsel in forty-three (43) cases involving the misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of the accident. In the Fiscal Year 2012 – 2013, the number of such cases was forty-nine (49). Accordingly, the number of such cases is fairly consistent.
    
     The total amount paid with respect to these claims in the Fiscal Year 2013 - 2104 was Seventeen Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty-two Dollars and Seven Cents ($17,332.07). The resulting average cost per case was Four Hundred Three Dollars and Seven Cents ($403.07). This cost is comparable to the statewide average cost for all cases involving misdemeanor offenses during the same period of time in the amount of Three Hundred Eighty-six Dollars and Seventy-nine Cents ($386.79). See Public Defender Services, Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2013 – 2014.
    
     The impact to the State is that the average cost for defending felony offenses is understandably higher than the average cost for misdemeanor offenses. The average cost for defending a felony charge in the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 by court-appointed counsel was One Thousand Forty Dollars and Sixteen Cents ($1,040.16). See Public Defender Services, Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2013 – 2014.
    
     The reporting to the agency does not designate whether a serious bodily injury was involved in these charges, since all offenses of leaving the scene of a crash when no death occurred are misdemeanors. If all cases reported in Fiscal Year 2013-2014 involved serious bodily injury, then the payment by the agency would have been, based upon the average cost of felony offenses, Forty-four Thousand Seven Hundred Twenty-six Dollars and Eighty-eight Cents ($44,726.88)(43 cases x $1040.16, average cost). The cost to the State due to this legislation would be the resulting increase from the actual payments made by the agency, i.e., Seventeen Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty-two Dollars and Seven Cents ($17,332.07). The increase is the amount of Twenty-seven Thousand Three Hundred Ninety-four Dollars and Eighty-one Cents ($27,394.81).
    
     However, the Traffic Engineering Division for the Department of Highways for the State of West Virginia reports that in calendar year 2013, only two (2) accidents involved a pedestrian who was hit by a vehicle whose driver then fled the scene, which, under the proposed legislation, would be presumed to have caused serious bodily injury. No information has been obtained regarding crashes between two or more vehicles which resulted in a serious bodily and in which a driver fled from the scene.
    
     The conclusion is, therefore, that, of the forty-three (43) cases in the Fiscal Year 2013 – 2014 involving the existing misdemeanor charge for leaving the scene of an accident, few, if any, involved serious bodily injury. If the assumption is made that two (2) cases involved such an injury, then the resulting increase in payments from the state’s general revenue by the agency to appointed counsel would be estimated to be One Thousand Three Hundred Six Dollars and Seventy-four Cents ($1,306.74)($1,040.16, average cost for felonies, minus $386.79, average cost for misdemeanors, times 2 cases). See Public Defender Services, Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2013 – 2014.
    
     Notably, no assessment was made regarding the costs with respect to any matters handled by the public defender corporations. The legislation would not result in an increased caseload for the public defender corporations, as it only increases the seriousness of already prosecuted offenses. Accordingly, the fixed costs of the public defender corporation would not be increased.
    



Fiscal Note Detail


Effect of Proposal Fiscal Year
2015
Increase/Decrease
(use"-")
2016
Increase/Decrease
(use"-")
Fiscal Year
(Upon Full
Implementation)
1. Estmated Total Cost 1,306 1,500 0
Personal Services 1,306 1,500 0
Current Expenses 0 0 0
Repairs and Alterations 0 0 0
Assets 0 0 0
Other 0 0 0
2. Estimated Total Revenues 0 0 0


Explanation of above estimates (including long-range effect):


    The increases were calculated using statistics from the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 compiled by Public Defender Services' Appointed Counsel Claims Tracking System. Forty-three (43) cases were reported which involved the misdemeanor offense of leaving the scene of an accident. If such charges were elevated to felonies, the increase could be estimated by using the difference between the average cost of felony cases and the average cost of misdemeanor cases. However, the issue is how many of these cases would have involved serious bodily injury, which is the criteria for the felony enhancement. If all cases were elevated to felonies, the total cost to the state would be estimated as the amount of Twenty-seven Thousand Three Hundred Ninety-four Dollars and Eighty-one Cents ($27,394.81), which is calculated by total cases (43) times average cost of felony cases ($1040.16) minus the actual payments made for the cases ($17,332.07). If based on the only statiscs available from the Department of Highways, the cost to the state would be estimated as the amount of One Thousand Three Hundred Six Dollars and Seventy-four Cents ($1,306.74), which is calculated by reported cases (2) times the difference between the average cost of felony offenses ($1040.16) and the average cost of misdemeanor offenses ($386.79.
     The costs are listed as personal services because the payments are for the services of court appointed legal counsel.



Memorandum


    None.



    Person submitting Fiscal Note: Dana.F.Eddy, Executive Director, PDS
    Email Address: Dana.F.Eddy@wv.gov