The Cost of Prosecuting a Suspected Murderer in California


I was interested in finding out exactly what it might cost the state of California if the suspect in Patty Vance’s murder was arrested and prosecuted, found guilty, and sent to prison. I was curious to know if cost might be a factor in whether or not the San Francisco DA choses to prosecute cold cases. I thought perhaps if prosecuting cases was excessively expensive, the DA might have to prioritize certain cases over others.


This is what I discovered after poking around the web site of the Legislative Analyst’s Office. This wordy banner topped the site:The California Legislature’s Non-Partisan Fiscal and Policy Advisor. Go

to if you’re interested. This is an office I didn’t even know existed. There I found a document titled, California’s Criminal Justice System: A Primer dated January 17, 2013. I calculated the dollars in 2018 dollars for clarity.

The numbers:

Felony average much higher costs than other case types. The average cost was roughly $2,600 for felony cases and $980 for juvenile delinquency cases. In contrast, the average cost per case was estimated to be roughly $380 for a misdemeanor and $35 for an infraction. Actual costs for an individual case can vary significantly depending on various factors (such as the length of the case). That’s $2,870 in today’s dollars.

The average cost of incarceration in a state prison: $51,889.00.  That’s $57,330.00 in today’s dollars.

So, my conclusion is that cost can not be a factor in the DA’s decision whether or not to prosecute felonies in California. I’d like to research it further at some point.

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