A Little Checks-and-Balances Does the Body Good

It is said that a recent proposed King County budget cut would slash $22 million in spending; most of which would hit the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the King County Sheriff’s Office the hardest. Under the proposed budget, the Prosecutor’s Office faces $2 million in cuts while the Sheriff’s Office would lose about $1.4 million.

The question is: Would this be a good thing? Well … seeing – over the course of several years – the systemic and wasteful spending on seemingly unnecessary trials in King County District Court (especially DUI trials) one could argue the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Quite honestly it is utterly insane the amount of time and money the tax payers are being forced to pay for misdemeanor trials that could easily be avoided if the county would simply come to the table and reasonably negotiate a settlement. Unfortunately, the policy of the King County Prosecutor’s Office is to only negotiate cases that essentially have ‘catastrophic issues’, which is – of course – the antithesis of when and why a defendant would even desire to resolve his case; hence the term ‘catastrophic’.

King County Executive Dow Constantine states that, “The Legislature is starving local government at a time when the demand for service is great and growing”. Well yes, Mr. Constantine … the demand may be great … perhaps, though, unnecessarily. One could take the position that the Legislature is actually acting as a sort of checks-and-balances on the criminal justice branch of the county by prohibited the criminal justice arm from overspending and, in essence, committing its own sort of crime on the county taxpayers. After all, isn’t that the structure of our government … checks-and-balances?

It is said that these cuts would translate into about 12 layoffs in 2017 with more possible in 2018. Well instead of layoffs, why not look at the county spending on district court jury trials. The amount of money spent on witnesses, jurors, interpreters and the like is simply outrageous and is absolutely not necessary. Most cases in the county district court system could easily be resolved by way of negotiated settlements inclusive of reduced charges that benefit not only the state and the county but also the defendant. This is exactly why the DUI penalty schedule under RCW 46.61.5055 is written the way it is; sadly, the county prosecutor’s office has chosen to seek its own brand of justice and as such is not even remotely evidencing the will of the people vis a vis the legislature as outlined in RCW 46.61.5055.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office has not only imposed its own interpretation of justice on DUI’s, it has also taken it upon itself to pick and choose what cases it feels are important to prosecute. For instance, the office is choosing, on its own accord, to not pursue driving while suspended third cases (which the people have said is a crime, see RCW 46.20.342) so that it can focus the costs, the time and the energy on DUI trials. The county prosecutor has, in essence, decriminalized a crime simply by choosing not to prosecute violators. That begs the question, when did the prosecutor’s office become a legislative body of our government? Such a decision is not, and should not, be made by the prosecuting attorney. That is a decision for the people and our legislature and until they say something isn’t a crime, the prosecuting attorney should be obligated to enforce the law regardless of anyone’s thoughts on its legitimacy or the impact it may have on the ability to prosecute other crimes.

This gets us full circle back to the concept of budget cuts. The Legislature may be doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing – ensuring the criminal justice system is doing what it is required to be doing, and doing it within a reasonable budget. The term is ‘checks and balances’ and the legislature should probably be commended for protecting the taxpayers from perhaps a rogue criminal justice system.

If you or a loved one is arrested or charged with a crime, you should immediately seek the advice and/or assistance of a qualified Seattle criminal defense attorney. The Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested or charged for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether you are arrested or charged with misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or a felony, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900.

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