May 11, 2009

Kochly’s latest solution to the misdemeanor prosecution crisis: have cities take over some cases

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.


Concord Blogger said...

I was just reading about this. It's a shame. Sure other cities in California are doing it but that's no excuse. The DA's office is just looking for someone else to point the finger at when crime levels increase. Concord is not able to support a plan like that financially.

Anonymous said...

Grrrr..... Talk when you know of which you speak. The man has no choice. Speak to the BOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what real value Contra Costa County really holds for us. Why don't we just pare the county down to a skeletal agency. Cities who have the sphere of influence of unincorporated communities could annex those areas. Or cities could take over some responsibilities of their unincorporated communities, such as issuing building permits.

Cities could administer their own programs. We could lose county staff through early retirements and attrition.

Anonymous said...

who'd pay the pensions though - they are obligated under a state act and in part, IMO, because the pension dept is run by self dealing scum who go to every junket possible and whose choice of investment people is VERY questionable (cuz they keep losing millions of dollars and no fires them)... that's why it needs to stay operational, to fund the pensions...gag