It is not surprising that an attorney who practices criminal defense would oppose Attorney General Brad Schimel’s recent plan to request additional funding to help bolster the ranks of prosecutors throughout the state.
In fact, many defense attorneys currently benefit from understaffing because it helps them lobby prosecutors to dismissal of charges or pleading out. Defense attorneys know they have an advantage — prosecutors are simply too busy to prosecute every crime that may cross their desk.
In a recent opinion piece published in the May 11, 2016, edition of the Wisconsin Law Journal, criminal defense attorney Anthony Cotton points to a decrease in the number of cases filed in the state and used it to question Schimel’s “bizarre” timing to request additional funding.”
However, Cotton failed to acknowledge that much of the decrease could conceivably be attributed to the complexity of caseloads prosecutors are currently handling and their inability, because of a lack of staff, to prosecute every case they are presented. It is misleading for Cotton to say prosecutors have an “army of law-enforcement” — many prosecutors have to depend on small police departments to help investigate alleged crimes, which are often far more complex than drug possession.
Schimel’s request for more prosecutors throughout the state is long overdue and one which will be welcomed not only by prosecutors but also by the thousands of victims who see crimes go unprosecuted or linger on the desks of overburdened DA’s for far longer than justice requires.
Ozaukee County provides a perfect example of why more prosecutors are needed throughout the state. The county’s population has grown by 30 percent since 1979, law enforcement has hardly increased its size since that time and the prosecutor’s office maintains the same level of staff it did when El Caminos were still cool. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out when population increases, crime increases. The ranks of law enforcement and prosecutors should likewise be adjusted to equal the increase in crimes and population.
As a victim of a white-collar crime, one which involved tens of thousands of dollars, I can attest to how unnerving it is to see the caseloads of prosecutors and realize that without a violent aspect to the crime, and given the complexity of many crimes, it often takes far longer than it should to hold defendants accountable. I have seen firsthand that prosecutors don’t have special budgets enabling them to hire forensic accountants or other experts in white-collar crime. Nor do they have an “army” of law enforcement to do their work as insinuated in Cotton’s commentary.
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