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King County Prosecutor dropping 1,500 misdemeanors from 2017

(File, Associated Press)

The King County Prosecutor’s Office is cutting lose about 1,500 misdemeanor cases from 2017 due to staffing shortages.

“The King County District Court handles misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors,” said Whitney Keyes with the prosecuting attorney’s office. “The PAO decided to dismiss these cases and prioritize filing driving while under the influence cases (DUIs) and fresh cases, rather than spend resources filing old cases. Of the cases returned, more than half involved minor shoplifting, bus fare evasion and trespassing. Gun violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and homicide remain the highest priority cases for the PAO.”

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The public initially became aware of the issue on Reddit. An anonymous police officer in King County — going under the Reddit handle of “BummedCop” — noted that charges ranging from criminal trespass to theft, vehicle prowls, and possession of stolen property will be dismissed.

The anonymous cop wrote:

So, anyone who got arrested for any of those crimes between May 1st and December 31st, their cases just got dumped. This is thousands of arrests we are talking about. Any arrests made in unincorporated King County, and any arrests made within cities who use King County District Court rather than a municipal court. Imagine being a cop who works their was (sic) off to actually combat the rampant property crime we have here, only to see all of your cases get dumped. You want non-proactive policing, this is how you get it.

Keyes points to the King County budget “which supports the law, safety and justice programs,” noting that it is capped at 1 percent on annual growth on property tax. There are therefore budget constraints preventing the prosecutor’s office from taking on the cases.

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“As a result, the PAO has fewer deputy prosecuting attorneys today than 10 years ago,” Keyes said. “The PAO has been in consultation with all referring police departments so that cases involving chronic offenders will be filed. The PAO regrets the need to decline these misdemeanor crimes and will continue to review all referred cases and prioritize those that most impact public safety.”

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