Crime in South Carolina remains above the national average in nearly all categories but that does not mean the available resources are meeting demands.
Recently, Greenvilleonline reported how, state prosecutors have warned they lack the resources to keep pace with thousands of criminal cases waiting for trial and “potential delays are a threat to public safety.”
The South Carolina Commission on Prosecution Coordination has asked for an additional $7.7 million from the General Assembly to finance 104 prosecutors required throughout the state and to ensure every county has at least one full-time prosecutor, the report stated.
The requested funding would cut the average annual caseload each prosecutor deals with from 375 to 280, according to commission projections. The current backlog means it takes an average of 423 days to get a case to court.
The report said the delays in adjudicating criminal cases pose a potential threat to public safety because the older a case gets, the “harder it is to prove” and criminals who are out of custody on bond can harm additional people, commission officials stated.
As Columbia criminal defense attorneys we are concerned the pressures on the system could mean prosecutors cut corners and defendants are not given fair trials.
The report states victims also should have the right to a speedy trial along with defendants.
The report quoted Walt Wilkins, 13th Circuit solicitor for Greenville and Pickens counties, who said he needs more money "just to be able to maintain and keep up with the current caseload that I have."
"Otherwise, cases are going to slip through the cracks, victims are not going to get the correspondence and the communication they deserve, bad defendants that need to go to jail are not going to go to jail and cases are not going to be as strong when we go to court as they could be because of that,” he said.
The 34 prosecutors in his Greenville office have 427 cases apiece, according to prosecution commission data. In Pickens, six prosecutors have 631 cases each, the data states.
He pointed out some of the downsides of the pressures on the system, saying one consequence is that in some cases prosecutors might offer a defendant probation instead of time in jail as part of a deal to plead guilty.
"They don't have time to chase every rabbit down every hole to try to tie it together to make it tight," he said of his prosecutors.
Prosecution commission officials cited FBI statistics. They said South Carolina exceeds national crime rates in all but the robbery category, based on the rate per 100,000 residents.
South Carolina records nearly 559 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents, 44 percent higher than the national average, commission officials said, citing FBI statistics.
The state's aggravated assault rate is a staggering 74 percent above the national average. The murder/manslaughter rate is 47 percent higher.
The state's violent crime rate has been among the nation's highest for years. If you are convicted of a violent crime it can have a fundamental impact on your life. It’s important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call Masella Law at 803.938.4952.