Down six attorneys and with his office struggling to keep up with its case load, District Bob Kochly has suggested that the cities can pick up the slack by prosecuting some misdemeanor crimes, the Contra Costa Times reports
Or rather, in an opinion written by Deputy District Attorney Doug MacMaster, cities in Contra Costa can decide whether or not to prosecute misdemeanor crimes themselves.
Kochly’s idea comes in the wake of an emergency April 28 meeting with the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors asked its Public Protection Committee to meet with Kochly and representatives from county police agencies to come up with a plan to continue prosecuting misdemeanors.
In a memo to supervisors, which you can view here, Kochly says there are two components to how the DA’s office prosecutes misdemeanors. First, someone needs to review arrest reports submitted by police to see if there is evidence to file charges and take the case to court.
Second, prosecutors must move the cases through the court system, from arraignments to motions, to jury trials, to probation hearings.
“Without the necessary number of attorneys to both review all the misdemeanor cases, and make the court appearances, there is no misdemeanor infrastructure,” Kochly wrote.
Some possible solutions include bringing in young attorneys on a volunteer basis, though, realistically, this would only work in the short term. The DA’s office is also looking for volunteers among experienced, retired attorneys, but “the source of supply” of such attorneys is limited, Kochly says.
Kochly is also looking at increasing the number of defendants referred to diversion programs. His office already uses programs for eligible drug offenders and first-time, non-violent offenders. Basically, the defendant in these cases must follow some kind of treatment or restitution program. If successful, the defendant can see the charges dismissed. Diversion programs can lessen the workload for his office, Kochly said, but they still need attorneys to monitor individual cases. His office is looking into whether a private program could run the diversion program for less than it would cost his office to do so.
Finally, Kochly said is looking at giving the cities the authority to prosecute their own misdemeanors. There is precedent for cities handling this task themselves. Some Southern California cities prosecute their own misdemeanors, and Richmond, just over the hills, prosecutors misdemeanor municipal code and building code violations. Antioch also handles civil enforcement of its municipal code and traffic court infractions.
The Supervisors Public Protection Committee will hear Kochly’s report 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.