Pilot project would create new charging team within City Attorney’s Office

Mayor Betsy Hodges’ proposed budget for the City Attorney’s Office includes funding for a two-year pilot project to create a new charging team for misdemeanor cases.

As part of the $248,000 pilot project, two new prosecutors would be hired to oversee charging of the misdemeanor cases instead of police officers.

One of the goals is to have prosecutors analyze whether there’s enough evidence for a conviction and prevent people from getting charges on their record if those cases would likely be dismissed.

City Attorney Susan Segal outlined the goal of the project during a budget presentation before the City Council’s Ways & Means/Budget Subcommittee budget hearing on Sept. 18.

The office’s proposed 2016 budget also includes $15,000 to develop police recommendations to reduce the impact of driving-related offense for low-income people; $10,000 to fund facilitation services by Restorative Justice Community Action for people charged with obstruction of the legal process; $15,000 to develop more effective consequences for carrying a gun without a permit; a funding increase of $55,000 for Restorative Justice; $50,000 to cover the loss of federal funding for the community attorney program; and $65,000 for a 24-hour hotline to provide advocacy services for domestic violence victims.

The criminal division has a very high caseload — 17,700 cases were handled in 2014. The office had a 74 percent conviction rate for the criminal cases that went to trial that year.

As for the civil division, the proposed budget includes $25,000 for the mayor’s Business Made Simple initiative, which is designed to streamline the city’s regulatory processes; and $40,000 for negotiations skill training for the office’s employees.