The Criminal Department reviews all felony, gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor cases committed outside of municipal and federal jurisdictions for legal sufficiency. Charges are then filed in either Superior or District courts. This work includes handling first appearance and arraignment calendars, advocating bail conditions, search and arrest warrant preparation, legal advice to law enforcement officers actively engaged in case investigation, trials, sentencing proceedings, restitution hearings and appeals.
The department works closely with all federal, state and municipal law enforcement agencies, other prosecutors' offices, the courts and the private bar. The department employs a "team" concept when charging and prosecuting criminal cases, which typically consists of a trial attorney, a legal assistant and the services of the victim-witness advocate.
The purpose of criminal prosecution is really 2-fold:
- To ensure accountability for the commission of criminal acts by individuals
- Provide assistance to victims
"Bail Study" Program
Beginning in 1995, former Prosecutor David Skeen worked with the Department of Corrections office in Port Townsend, the local judges, court staffs and probation officers to create a "Bail Study" program for violent and other special types of offenders. The purpose of this study was to provide the court and prosecutors with additional information prior to setting conditions of release (bail) and to create a pre-trial supervision program for these offenders.
The program has been successful in reducing incidents of criminal behavior and continued substance abuse for defendants awaiting trial but is designed to insure that offenders are immediately accountable for their actions.
Citizen & Legislative Mandates
The Criminal Department is also required to meet several recent citizen and legislative mandates to get tougher on "violent" offenders. These types of cases are the most complex and difficult to prosecute and seldom result in guilty pleas. Our approach has been to gradually change our charging practices to reflect the mandate of the public and the intent of the Legislature, in order to prosecute all such cases without plea bargaining.
The public expects the Prosecutor's Office to prosecute all driving under the influence (DUI) and domestic violence cases without plea bargaining and we are making every effort to meet this mandate within the constraints of our budget and staffing limitations.