Loudoun Co. prosecutors will stop trying some misdemeanors


Loudoun County, Virginia’s top prosecutor says her office is “inundated” and will not participate in some misdemeanor cases, choosing to focus on violent and felony crimes.

Loudoun County, Virginia’s top prosecutor says her office is “inundated” and will not participate in some misdemeanor cases, choosing to focus on violent and felony crimes.

In a Dec. 30 memo to Loudoun County General District Court judges, Commonweath’s Attorney Buta Biberaj said that as of Jan. 16, her office will not participate in a number of traffic offenses and low-level criminal cases.

Biberaj tells WTOP that she wants to prioritize the work of Loudoun prosecutors on serious crimes.

“Do we want to spend three or four hours on a traffic infraction or low-level nonviolent offense? Or, do we want to take that time and dedicate it to rapes, robberies and domestic violence?” Biberaj said. “I choose, for the betterment of the community, to focus in on those more serious and egregious matters.”

Biberaj’s memo to the judge included six traffic offenses that her office will no longer try:

  • Traffic infractions that would lead to fines
  • Reckless driving and speeding where a person was driving under 90 miles an hour
  • First offenses of driving without, or on a suspended, license
  • Hit-and-run resulting in property damage
  • Eluding
  • Registration and titling offenses

Biberaj also listed nine criminal offenses that generally do not warrant jail time that her office would also no longer participate in:

  • Trespassing
  • Petty larceny
  • Possession of Schedule III or IV drugs
  • Being drunk in public,
  • Underage possession of alcohol,
  • Noise complaints,
  • Violations of ordinances,
  • Failure to appear
  • Trials in absence that aren’t punishable by jail

With the quickly growing population of Loudoun County, and the prevalence of body camera footage, Biberaj said her office has faced a growing amount of work.

“It’s taken a lot of cases, which previously could be prepared by reading a page and a half of a police report, interviewing an officer for 10 or 15 minutes, and talking to a victim for 15 or 20 minutes — you could prepare a case within an hour,” Biberaj said.

Biberaj, who was elected on a platform of judicial reform, said the prioritization of her office’s involvement doesn’t mean people won’t face justice.

“They get their day in court — they are held accountable,” said Biberaj. “The judge still makes the determination whether they’re guilty or not guilty and imposes an appropriate disposition.”

However, instead of prosecutors facilitating the hearings in District Court, Biberaj said the judge will question sheriff’s deputies or police officers about evidence, and provide defendants the chance to speak.

“If the officer was there, they’re the ones that have all the facts, so they’re very much aware of what was recorded on body-worn cameras, and they have the reports,” Biberaj said.

Biberaj’s decision came as a surprise to Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.

“Law enforcement officers will no longer have assistance from a prosecutor in many General District Court cases,” said Chapman, in a statement. “While we are disappointed in this action by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, we are doing everything in our power to support our deputies through this transition and will make every effort to ensure that we continue to partner with the community to provide the same great service to everyone in Loudoun County.”

Biberaj said her office will provide guidance and training to assist sheriff’s deputies in presenting cases without the aid of a prosecutor.

“We can’t do them all,” Biberaj said. “Our community wants us to focus on crimes of violence; our community wants us to focus on serious offenses.”

Fox 5 DC was first to report on Biberaj’s memo to the judges. Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall said she had not been alerted to the change of policy within the prosecutor’s office.

“There’s no obligation or duty to share with the Board of Supervisors,” Biberaj told WTOP. “We are trying to be good stewards of the resources that we have.”

Randall told Fox 5 that she has told Biberaj that she will not support her in the upcoming primary election, against Elizabeth Lancaster.

“I don’t do the job I do, the best way that I can, to get the endorsement of any supervisor,” Biberaj said. “I do what I do for the people of Loudoun County; I don’t do it to secure favoritism from any elected official.”

Randall and her chief of staff did not immediately respond to a WTOP request for comment.


Source link

Comments are closed.