Elk River amps up efforts to resolve cases early on

Aggressiveness during arraignments, reaching plea agreements help save Elk River money

by Maggie Stanwood

Contributing Writer

In 2019, Sherburne County handled more Elk River criminal cases in the arraignment and plea phase rather than having to carry the cases throughout the entire legal process, according to a presentation City Prosecutor Scott Baumgartner gave to the Elk River City Council on Monday about the prosecuting activities for the city in 2019.

“We are being more aggressive trying to resolve it in the arraignment phase, which saves the city money,” Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner said part of the reason more cases are able to be resolved during arraignment is due to the reports filed by the Elk River Police Department.

“The reports are so well done that it leaves little loophole to argue,” Baumgartner said. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room. That’s why we don’t have so many jury trials, so many contested hearings. Officers do such a good job upfront that it alleviates those gaps or otherwise questionable issues that would be raised.”

In 2019, there were 35 total domestic assault cases, 108 total DWI cases and 16 thefts in Elk River. There were 259 total criminal cases. In 2018, there were 39 total domestic assault cases, 131 total DWI cases and 31 thefts.

While crime “ebbs and flows,” Baumgartner said, the lower numbers could be attributed to resolving the cases in the arraignment phase. If the case is resolved at that point, it is not included in the prosecuting statistics for the year.

Of the 259 total cases, 44% pleaded as charged, 22 pleaded to a lesser charge, 5% were continued for dismissal, 5% had warrants out, 3% were dismissed as part of a plea agreement and 1% were dismissed.

“I want to commend the police department,” Baumgartner said. “They support us, we support them. Constant communication. If something can be made better, it is. We look forward to working with them again.”

Baumgartner also spoke briefly during the presentation about the county’s adult diversion program. If a person commits a certain type of offense but has little to no criminal history, that person can be placed in the adult diversion program. In 2019, 37 cases were referred to the program and nine were accepted. Of the nine, two failed out.

Baumgartner said although the numbers weren’t high, he thinks it is a good program for first-time offenders and will continue to work with the county on it.

“You go through some programming, learn right from wrong, and hopefully stay out of the system,” he said.

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