Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What does an Assistant County Attorney do?

Here's the second post from the anonymous, mysterious, wonderfully talented man/woman known anonymously and mysteriously as "The Assistant."

Here he be (or she):

What does an Assistant County Attorney do?

That answer can vary significantly from one county to the next. About 85% of my workload is misdemeanor criminal prosecutions. The rest of my time is spent prosecuting all levels of juvenile crime, representing victims of family violence in protective order hearings, and representing the state in a small number of CPS cases, mental commitments, and Justice of the Peace prosecutions. My boss is the only other attorney in our office and they focus mainly on CPS cases, the county’s compliance with legal regulations, providing advice to the county commissioners, and other civil matters.

Since I’m the only assistant, that means I’m responsible for every misdemeanor committed in the county- from reviewing the case for intake to plea negations and on through trial. The ones that I see most commonly are first and second DWIs, possession of marijuana (anything under 4 ounces), assault, and theft (anything under $1,500). Less frequent are things like criminal mischief (again, under $1,500), reckless driving, and driving with a suspended license. Sometimes I’ll get some *really* fun cases, but you’ll just have to wait to hear about some of those…

Looking at my caseload for the last 6 months, we’ve disposed of between 50 and 100 cases each month. A case can be resolved any number of ways- a conviction, placement on deferred adjudication, pre-trial diversion, a dismissal with a felony conviction, a dismissal with a conviction in another misdemeanor, or a “straight” dismissal based on something like insufficient evidence or a witness/victim who won’t cooperate.

My office also prosecutes juvenile crimes, though fortunately that isn’t nearly as big a deal here as in many places. I’ve handled 20 or 30 juvenile cases, and haven’t had to send a single kid to TYC. All of the cases have been resolved with some combination of restitution, probation, and treatment.

I’ve also handled a dozen or so protective orders. In Texas, a protective order requires a showing that family violence has occurred in the past and is likely to occur in the future. Most protective orders are agreed to by the parties without having to put on any evidence- the person that the protective order is sought against is often in jail on a related and fairly serious charge. Only one of the protective orders I’ve sought was opposed, so we presented testimony in front of a judge and he ended up granting the order. I also had the relatively rare experience of seeking a protective order on behalf of a husband seeking protection from his wife. He was hardly blameless in the whole matter, but when she pulled a gun on him… Well, that caught our attention.

So what do I do? The short answer is that I’m a jack of all trades. My job requires lots of flexibility to move between different responsibilities and the approximately 100 criminal cases that are on my docket at any one time. In the end though, my job is the same as DAC’s and every other prosecutor in the state- not to convict, but to see that justice is done.


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