What is a district attorney?
A district attorney represents the state in felony criminal cases. Specifically, a district attorney prosecutes felonies in the district in which he or she has been elected.
The 69th Judicial District covers Moore, Sherman, Hartley and Dallam counties (Dumas, Sunray, Cactus, parts of Fritch, Texhoma, Stratford, Dalhart, Channing, Hartley, Texline, etc.). Therefore, residents of these counties are represented by their elected 69th Judicial District Attorney in felony crimes occurring in these areas.
What is a felony?
Typical felonies in this district include:
How a case moves through the system
A district attorney has significant power over how a case progresses through the system.
A case starts with law enforcement. Law enforcement may seek assistance with a warrant from the district attorney or may make an “on view” arrest where they witness a crime in progress (i.e. Driving While Intoxicated, location of drugs in a vehicle on a traffic stop). District attorney availability to answer law enforcement questions is vital during a time-sensitive matter.
After a case has been investigated and an offense report has been written, law enforcement submits the case to the district attorney’s office. Once the case is submitted, a district attorney reviews the case to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to submit the case to a grand jury. A grand jury decides whether or not to indict a defendant in a secret proceeding . There, 9 out of 12 jurors must vote to indict a defendant if they believe there is enough evidence that a crime probably occurred and that this defendant is the one that probably did it.
A district attorney determines how quickly he or she reviews a case and when, if at all, a case will be presented to a grand jury.
Once a case is indicted, a defendant is arrested on the indictment warrant if they were not previously arrested or if their bail is raised by the judge. A district attorney will typically make a plea bargain offer to a defendant that is willing to plead guilty to the crime as indicted. The district attorney has wide discretion in making a plea bargain offer, including: reducing the charge, offering probation versus prison time, or the timing in making the offer.
If a defendant does not wish to plead guilty, a district attorney represents the district in the jury trial.
Importance of the district attorney
A district attorney has a lot of options on how to move a case through the felony process. Additionally, the effectiveness of a district attorney will often depend on their advocacy and negotiation skills, availability to law enforcement, and their effectiveness in arguing cases to a jury.