By Andrea Krause
Montcalm County prosecuting attorney
Crime victims, their families and the public expect quick action from their criminal justice system.
As Montcalm County prosecutor since 1998 and previously an assistant prosecutor, I fully understand that expectation. I have witnessed, up close every day for 23 years, terrible pain and loss inflicted upon the innocent by the criminally guilty.
The public face of my office is seen in open court, where facts and law are argued and verdicts rendered. The invisible part of our job is where public impatience often leads to frustration and even anger. I thank The Daily News for asking me to clarify how the prosecutor’s office functions and why the best path to a just verdict can falsely appear to be justice delayed.
Ironically, one reason for getting to trial as quickly as possible is the unsurpassed American justice system’s insistence that a speedy trial is a right of the accused. As a prosecutor and as a citizen, I take that right seriously. It is my duty to seek justice for crime victims, however, to gather the best possible information before charging, and the best possible case before seeking a conviction.
When a crime or suspected crime occurs, it is investigated by one or more of the nine police agencies that operate within Montcalm County. Typically, a police investigative report is submitted to my office for review. Usually — but not always — that is all my office needs to make a decision on whether to file charges.
In some cases, further information is needed from law enforcement investigators before deciding whether to bring a charge — and exactly what that charge should be. Usually an officer’s response is enough for us to make a decision. In complex cases, though, this can take time.
Other cases require, and often hinge upon, blood testing by the Michigan State Police Crime Laboratory. Such cases most often involve drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both. Toxicology tests take time. The current wait for drug-test results is six to seven months.
All of these investigatory and lab-testing reports are vital to making an informed decision on whether to charge, what to charge and, ultimately, how to enter a courtroom with the best case to prove that case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Last year, my office reviewed nearly 2,000 police reports for possible criminal prosecution. That means many thousands of family members whose lives have been changed by incidents that generated those police reports. We do our level best to keep those families informed of a case’s progress, and to see that each case culminates in justice — timely justice — for everyone.
Victims can contact my office at (989) 831-7326 if they have any questions or concerns regarding their case.
Andrea Krause is the prosecuting attorney for Montcalm County.
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