Anyone can attest that this year has been anything but ordinary, and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office is no exception. This year we've accomplished a lot and made significant changes not only to adapt to a pandemic but to improve our role in the criminal justice system and the way we serve communities in Maricopa County.
Program and Policy Updates
As employees moved into a new building at the start of the year, MCAO began updating office programs and policies. The office introduced a new felony diversion program that focuses on the underlying factors of criminal behavior and provides opportunities for those with low-level, non-violent offenses to enroll in a treatment program. Within the first month, the felony diversion program had referred 1,312 individuals and continues to help reduce recidivism by diverting individuals from the criminal justice system.
During the summer, County Attorney Adel also decided for the office to once again manage uncontested adoptions, a free service for Maricopa County residents. This decision highlights the County Attorney's belief that if a loving couple wants to provide a home to a child in need, a couple's sexual orientation should not be considered.
This fall, County Attorney Adel also updated and released the office's prosecution policies and plea agreements. These updates now allow county prosecutors more freedom to critically assess their cases and make the right choices for the right reasons. For a full list of MCAO policies visit, MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/Prosecution-Policies
Not too long after, the office also deployed a new home detention program for DUI offenses that provides flexibility to staff and reduces the impact of jail time on offenders and their families, all the while making sure they receive an appropriate sentence.
In addition to improvements in programs and policies, County Attorney Adel also prioritized improving the transparency and trust with communities across the county. In addition to improving the public records request process's efficiency and developing a data dashboard for case filing information, MCAO also created two advisory boards and a prosecution integrity program.
MCAO's community advisory board and business advisory board were created to build trust and create a pathway for open communication with our communities. These advisory boards will bring perspective and help our office learn first hand about the issues affecting communities and businesses in the valley. Likewise, these boards will learn about MCAO's operations and our role within the criminal justice system.
To help ensure transparency and accountability, MCAO developed the prosecution integrity program to handle claims of actual innocence, potential inappropriate police conduct, including alleged excessive use of force, and other claims of prosecutorial unfairness in handling cases.
In addition to their office work, MCAO employees remained involved in their communities throughout the year by volunteering at Shred-A-Thons, at the Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life conference, and the Arizona Veterans Stand Down Alliance. Employees also raised funds for Arizona BrainFood, organized donations to domestic violence shelters, and participated in the County's Combined Charitable Campaign. Our employees are one of a kind, and their dedication to public service and community improvement doesn't go unnoticed. This year, a number of our employees were also recognized for their commitment and hard work.
- DCA, Casey Mundell- Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Top Ten Animal Defender in the Country
- DCA, Addison Owen and Edward Leiter- FBI Director Certificate of Commendation Award
- Director of Communications, Jennifer Liewer- Phoenix New Times Best Public Information Officer
- Asset Recovery Bureau Chief, Peter Spaw- 2020 APAAC Lifetime Achievement Award
- DCA, Tessa Hudstead-2020 APAAC Rising Star of the Year Award
Supporting Victims of Crime
On its own, the criminal justice system can be incredibly confusing and stressful for victims of crime. Adding COVID-19 concerns to the mix, it is especially important that victims feel supported and have the resources they need during this time. Our victim advocates have worked hard this year to make sure that happens by notifying victims of changes to court proceedings, setting up a check-in station, making arrangements for victims to participate in court proceedings telephonically, and much more.
Making sure victims can participate in the criminal justice system upholds victims' constitutional rights. It empowers them to take control, provides them with an opportunity to share their story, and for many to receive closure. Our office will continue to protect victims' rights through advocacy, support, and services while doing our part to stop the spread of this deadly disease.
Holding Criminals Accountable and Keeping Communities Safe Across Maricopa County
This year the COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of our operations at MCAO. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the criminal justice system, County Attorney Adel asked prosecutors to review cases based on the nature of the crime, criminal history, input from victims, and public safety.
Even with these changes, our prosecutors and staff had a busy year. According to our preliminary data, our office has had 40,778 referrals so far this year. Among these, the most common types of crime were drug offenses and aggravated assault, making up 14.1% and 5.5% of all referrals submitted to our office, respectively.
Once a case is referred to the office, it is up to our attorneys to decide if they will file a case or not. From these referrals, 20,525 cases were filed by our attorneys and 19,673 cases were disposed. Of the cases that were disposed, 10,323 or 52.5% of them concluded with a plea agreement or guilty verdict and 47.5% of them were dismissed.
While cases were filed from all areas in Maricopa County, the East Phoenix and Scottsdale community bureau filed the most cases making up 9.3% of all cases followed by the Mesa and North Central Phoenix community bureaus filing 8.4% and 7.8% of all cases, respectively.
While there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes at MCAO, we hope this summary of our work and accomplishments this year reinforces our commitment to public safety and crime prevention in Maricopa County. From everyone at MCAO, we thank you for your support and look forward to another year of service.
See you next year!
To see more case data visit, MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/Data
Note: 2020 Case Data is currently not available on the MCAO Data Dashboard.