24 February 2006

Prosecutorial Case Loads

I came across some statistics on the case loads of prosecutors in Cumberland County, Maine today. The numbers are, in my experience, pretty typical of the national pattern and a higher than most people realize. I'll share them here:

Misdemeanor Division handles all civil infractions and misdemeanor crimes except domestic violence and juvenile cases. Each ADA is assigned to one or more police departments. The five prosecutors, along with six legal interns (third year law students) and support personnel handle about 20,000 cases per year.

Felony Division attorneys handle all felony cases. Cases are assigned to a specific attorney when we first get involved in the investigation, irrespective of police department. Each attorney handles about 200 cases per year

Domestic Violence Unit handles misdemeanor and felony domestic violence cases. Domestic violence has been called “public enemy number one.” These cases are very sensitive because the perpetrators are often the spouse, former spouse, or significant other of the victim. We established a Domestic Violence Unit in order to give these cases more attention by attorneys and victim assistants who are specially trained and dedicated to handle these cases. The Unit handles 1200 cases per year.

The Juvenile Justice Division handles all cases involving offenders who are younger than 18 years old. Here the focus is on rehabilitating the offender so all cases are given extensive attention. Each prosecutor works with the defense attorney, the probation department and other agencies involved with the juvenile. We attempt to come up with the best possible plan for the juvenile while considering the victim’s concerns and public safety. Unlike court proceedings involving adults, proceedings involving juveniles are closed to the public except in felony cases or if the juvenile has a certain history. Each ADA handles 250-300 cases each year.

Assuming that combined salary and staff expenses of a District Attorneys office are about $100,000 per year per attorney, a fair guess, the average attorneys fee expense for a felony prosecution is about $500, and the average attorneys fee expense of a misdemeanor prosecution is about $25. This is incredibly cheap. Finding a private criminal defense attorney that will represent you in a misdemeanor DUI case for less than $5,000 is very rare. A typical felony defense from a private criminal defense attorney costs several tens of thousands of dollars.

Of course, unlike a private criminal defense attorney or a lawyer in a civil case, the District Attorney's office has all of the law enforcement officers in their district working to gather evidence for their cases (in a manner not unlike the solicitor-barrister system in England, where the law enforcement officers are both solicitors preparing cases and out enforcing the law), and they settle a great many cases more leniently than they would have to, in order to clear their case loads.

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