Kern County D.A. may not prosecute misdemeanors

Kern County D.A. may not prosecute misdemeanors

Budget Cuts are forcing District Attorney Ed Jagels to take drastic measures to save money. For the first time in his career, Jagels may no longer prosecute some misdemeanor crimes.
As the county budget proposals stand right now, the District Attorney won't prosecute misdemeanor crimes leaving some criminals off the hook.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors says public safety is "priority number one," but the District Attorney says more criminals will be on the streets if the proposed budget cuts pass.

"Something has to give," District Attorney Ed Jagels said. "And that's going to be misdemeanors."

He warns budget cuts come at a cost.

"This is going to mean a difference in our quality of life and a difference in our property and ourselves," Jagels told 17 News.

Jagels' office is known for catching gangsters on misdemeanor charges, locking them up and building cases against them. But with cuts come consequences.

"There are going to be a significant number of gangsters who would've been in, who are going to be out instead," Jagels explained.

This worries Christina Lusish, a mother of two young children.

"If there's criminals out there that aren't going to be prosecuted, they're out on the streets," Lusish said. "That something that concerns you as a mother."

Some misdemeanors still will be prosecuted.

"...Misdemeanors sex crimes, driving under the influence, assault and behavior, we are going to try to prosecute as best we can although we'll have very very few deputies to do it," Jagels said.

But others likely will not. With looming lay-offs the Sheriff's Department says its hands may also be tied.

"There is potential that if we knew that it clearly was a simple call that was not going to be prosecuted, could the potential be that we do not respond," UnderSheriff Marty Williamson said adding, "We're not there yet, but it could be once we can clearly define the district attorney's position."

Jagels isn't giving specifics on what criminals will get away with saying he doesn't want to provide a "blueprint" to crooks. However, defense attorneys already have a pretty good idea.

"Public intoxication, perhaps first-time petty thefts, possession of paraphernalia, possession of marijuana cases, particularly where there's a question it's covered under the compassionate use act, possession of small amounts of narcotics should be considered not to be prosecuted," Criminal Defense Attorney H.A. Sala explained..

Adding to public safety concerns, Jagels says with fewer deputies he won't be tracking people who commit multiple misdemeanors.

"We probably won't know it and they won't be treated any differently than if they hadn't committed those misdemeanors," Jagels said of multiple misdemeanor offenders.

Sala says while the District Attorney's office may not be tracking misdemeanors, the computer database will still reveal how many times criminals have been arrested.

"In the age now of computers, everything is entered into a database," Sala said. "Once you've been arrested, there's a computer database of that arrest that could be accessed by law enforcement including the D.A.'s office. So if you've been arrested in one portion of the county for a petty theft, and arrested in another area law enforcement is going to know about it."

The Board of Supervisors told public safety officials they will have a decision on these proposed cuts by July 1. Until then, officials from numerous departments are waiting and hoping some cuts will be spared.

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