The Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office prosecutes crimes committed in Santa Cruz County on behalf of the People of the State of California. This involves the review of all requests from law enforcement agencies and determining whether the District Attorney will issue a criminal complaint; in addition to the prosecution of all cases for which a complaint has been issued.
DETERMINATION OF WHETHER TO ISSUE A CRIMINAL COMPLAINT
All local law enforcement agencies submit police reports and requests for the issuance of a criminal complaint to the District Attorney's Office Criminal Prosecution Division. Each report and request is reviewed for sufficient evidence to support the criminal charge(s) and the issuance of a criminal complaint. The evidence is reviewed to determine if it is sufficient to prove the charge to a jury "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Following a review of the police reports, the District Attorney's Office may take one of several actions. The District Attorney may:
- File the charges in a criminal complaint;
- Not issue the criminal complaint, but send the case back to the law enforcement agency with a request for additional investigation;
- Reject or decline the case for a number of reasons.
Once the decision to file a complaint has been made, the task of successfully and fairly prosecuting the case begins. Prosecutors work on behalf of the people of the State of California to see that individuals who commit crimes are convicted and punished so that justice is accomplished. Once a criminal case is filed the matter may be resolved by a negotiated disposition, at which a defendant would admit the truth of the charges, or by a trial before a judge or a jury. Resolution can occur within days of filing a complaint or years. Many cases can also be extremely complex, requiring significant law expertise and a significant amount of legal paperwork and procedures to successfully complete the prosecution.