The Seattle City Attorney's Office is making the decision on whether to prosecute misdemeanors in a fraction of the time they were last year, and choosing to prosecute more than twice as often, according to a mandatory report prepared for the City Council and released Wednesday.
In her campaign and since taking office, City Attorney Ann Davison promised to reduce the backlog of 5,000 misdemeanor cases without prosecution decisions and expedite decisions on new cases that come through the Criminal Division. In February, Davison announced the office would make filing decisions within five days of a new case arriving.
Davison's office reduced the median time to make a decision on whether to file charges for misdemeanor cases to three days, down from the 129 days it took on average from 2017-2021, according to the report.
With this focus on case backlogs, filing decision on over 3,400 cases were made in the second quarter of 2022, up from about 1,960 cases with a referral decision in the same period last year. More than 900 of those were backlogged cases.
In a Wednesday statement, she said she was proud of the results of this approach so far.
"Since taking office, I have been committed to re-centering victims in the public safety system in Seattle, and the data in this report proves that we are making significant progress in delivering on this promise," Davison said.
As the speed of referral decisions increased, so did the likelihood of those cases being filed. According to the report, 1,754 cases were declined in the second quarter — an increase of 46% over the same period last year — and 1,708 cases were filed — a 124% increase.
Quicker decisions also resulted in more effective processing of certain charges, like domestic violence. In 2021, 27% of domestic violence referrals were declined due to a difficulty in contacting victims, which Davison office attributes to "many victims [losing] interest in participating in their cases and witnesses [becoming] harder to contact." In the second quarter of 2022, that number dropped to 8%.