As finances from Measure N have exploded since its passing in 2018, the city of Bakersfield will pay the Kern County District Attorney’s Office $300,000 to boost prosecutors’ salary when they prosecute infractions of city regulations.
The $300,000 will be used for the salary of trained prosecutors who will continue to ensure that crimes that negatively impact quality of life receive the attention they deserve within the criminal justice system, according to city spokesman Joe Conroy in an emailed statement. “By the city granting the funds generated by Measure N to the Kern County District Attorney, the district attorney can designate deputy district attorneys to focus on the quality-of-life crimes and the misdemeanour calendar,” he added.
By passing ordinances in areas not covered by state law, members of the city council add to the municipal code, which could add to the caseloads of prosecutors. According to Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel, the DA’s office spokesman, the roughly 80 district attorneys in the office prosecute over 30,000 cases annually, thus receiving the money is a reward for their efforts.
The DA’s office has already gotten funding from the city to pursue these crimes, and it is an evolution of a prior program. Lower-level misdemeanours that violated the city’s municipal code were originally prosecuted by deputy city attorneys; district attorneys now have this responsibility. But Measure N, a 1-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2018 to boost city services and public safety, has empowered prosecutors to take on these cases.
The funds were the subject of a letter from the Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer to the members of the City Council. “Although minor in nature, if allowed unenforced (these crimes) can have a profoundly negative influence upon the quality of life for a city’s people,” Zimmer wrote.
Gambling, intoxication in public, the open exhibition of drug paraphernalia, boisterous gatherings, panhandling, curfews, trespassing, and shopping cart theft are a few examples of these offences.
The money were approved by the majority of City Council members during the consent agenda on Wednesday.
Under the City Council’s permission, Bakersfield police officers will also be able to “directly file” approved low-level offences. Officers have the authority to bring accusations against themselves, and deputy district attorneys can start the criminal proceedings.
Police officers often provide the investigation and suggested charges to the district attorney’s office, which subsequently files the charges. The “direct filing” procedure skips review and allows police to ask that a suspect be charged with a different felony than what prosecutors would ultimately do. Police officers will only bring charges for “straightforward issues,” such as driving while ineligible or with a suspended licence, said to Kinzel, the DA’s office spokesperson. Police officers will not conduct in-depth investigations, he added.
By keeping track of their offences and ensuring they complete the court process, this technology will also assist prosecutors in helping those who consistently violate the law by failing to appear in court, he continued. Similar funding was also included in a recent budget, so this is not the first time the city has collaborated with the District Attorney’s Office on a program of this nature. “We plan to continue to participate with the D.A. on this initiative in the future,” Conroy said in his statement.
- To enforce city’s municipal code, city diverts Measure N funds to district attorney’s office
- Check all news and articles from the latest Business news updates.