| Category : Cases (3)
The Circuit Court – Family Division are those cases where the Prosecuting Attorney is charged with the responsibility of bringing cases of child neglect or abuse to the court. In, addition, the Prosecuting Attorney handles cases of juvenile delinquency and involuntary mental admissions (in Probate Court). Juvenile delinquency petitions filed in 2003 increased 70% from 1993. These numbers are disturbing, but understandable, given the growth of Allegan County, the breakdown in American family values, and the high incidence of educating the community and reporting. Allegan County has and will continue to take an aggressive approach in the protection of our children. Allegan County has one Family Court/Probate Judge, and two Hearing Referees.
Felony cases are crimes where punishment is incarceration in excess of one year and are handled in Circuit Court. Felony cases require a great deal of time and require several court appearances such as pre-exams and preliminary examinations in District Court; and if the case is bound over to Circuit Court, the Prosecuting Attorney is responsible for all proceedings at that level including pre-trials, motion hearings, pleas, trials, and sentencing. All felony cases have strict time limits both for preliminary examinations (within 14 days) and trials (within 180 days). Allegan County has two Circuit Court Judges, who are primarily responsible for handling the adult felony cases.
The felony caseload has substantially increased in the past three years as a result of a Methamphetamine Abuse epidemic which has infected Allegan County. Methamphetamine use is prevalent in approximately 35% of all felony cases in Allegan County.
Misdemeanor cases are crimes where punishment is incarceration in the county jail for up to one year and handled in District Court. Allegan County has two District Court Judges, and a Hearing Magistrate. These types of cases are large in number and include, assaults (domestic and others), drunk driving, drug use or possession, and property crimes. As a matter of policy, this office has sought and received significant jail terms for repeat drunk drivers and domestic assault defendants. In 1998, the District Court,at the request of this office and the Allegan County Domestic Violence Task Force, implemented a Domestic Violence Diversion Program whereby first-time offenders are given the opportunity to receive counseling and avoid criminal convictions. The pre-requisites for acceptance into the program are specific, and one cannot qualify if there is aggravated physical injury or a history of domestic violence.
The goal of the program is to stop the cycle of violence. The statistics from the 57th District Courts Annual Report are extremely encouraging for successful results from this program.
| Category : Duties (5)
Most crime victims experience physical suffering, financial loss, and emotional distress. Physical injuries occur in nearly one-third of all violent crimes. In 1985, the Michigan Crime Victims Rights Act mandated comprehensive rights for all victims. Prior to this legislation, the widespread failure to inform or involve the victim in the process ignored the physical, financial and emotional stress that results from being a victim of crime. Our Victim Assistance program provides an extensive notification service to victims to advise them of each court proceeding as their case moves through the court system.
Under Michigan Law, it is the duty of the Prosecuting Attorney to decide “if” someone will be charged with a crime and the precise nature of that criminal prosecution. Police agencies submit their investigative reports to the Prosecuting Attorney to determine if a factual and legal basis exists to initiate prosecution. This office reviews an average of 250 warrant requests per month. As can be noted from the statistics above, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney has a great responsibility to properly review reports and properly charge criminals. Each investigative report, if it results in a charged crime, could result in a jury trial in District Court, Circuit Court, or Family Court/Probate Court; and a jury trial could cost Allegan County between $300.00-$800.00 per day of trial
A Prosecuting Attorney is on call twenty-four hours a day. The Prosecutor is required to consult with police agencies, issue arrest warrants evenings and weekends, and be available to prepare search warrants (which are usually needed at the most inconvenient times). These responsibilities continue to increase each year as the number of crimes and law enforcement personnel increases. Also, the law is becoming more complex and the criminal defendant is becoming more educated.
The current staff of Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys continues to be as active as their caseloads allow in several different areas related to criminal justice. Their involvement includes membership and participation in the Allegan County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Council, Domestic Violence Task Force, Allegan County Alliance for a Safe Community, Drunk Driving Victim Impact panel and numerous civic groups.
The Prosecuting Attorney is responsible for a variety of other duties. It is necessary to regularly appear for involuntary commitment of the mentally ill. These cases include many people that are a serious threat to the public and themselves.
The Prosecuting Attorney also is responsible for enforcement of approximately 200 statutorily created duties, from advising various county departments and agencies to making sure the annual county real estate tax sale is completed correctly.
This office is a part of the West Michigan Enforcement Team (WEMET) which involves Allegan, Ottawa, and Muskegon counties in drug enforcement. It is important to deny drug dealers their profits and to put these profits into programs designed to catch and prosecute these criminals. In 2002 and 2003 this office was a key component of a Methamphetamine Task Force, which initiated an aggressive campaign against the use, production and delivery of Methamphetamine in Allegan County. The Task Force was extremely successful and has been used as a model for drug enforcement practices in other Michigan counties.