Lane County DA’s office won’t prosecute certain crimes due to staffing shortage

By Chris M Lehman (KLCC)
July 31, 2022 4:15 p.m.

The Lane County District Attorney’s office says a shortage of prosecutors means some nonviolent offenders won’t be charged.

DA Patty Perlow said six prosecutors have left in the past eight months, often seeking higher-paying jobs elsewhere. So for now, her attorneys won’t prosecute certain crimes, including disorderly conduct, driving while suspended, and property crimes.

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Perlow said her office just doesn’t have the ability to give those cases the attention they deserve.

“Charging someone with a crime is a life-changing decision for that person,” she said. “And we want to make sure that the people doing that are properly trained to assess a case and to determine the level of evidence available and the likely outcome if that case were to go to trial. And that takes time.”

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The Lane County Courthouse in Eugene, Ore.

The Lane County Courthouse in Eugene, Ore.

Nathan Wilk / KLCC

Perlow said the loss of the prosecutors opened a hole in her office’s institutional knowledge and professional background.

“Somebody with six months experience is the most experienced person on the misdemeanor team right now,” she said.

Exceptions to the policy will be made for certain repeat offenders, as well as crimes where the elderly or disabled are victimized.

This isn’t the first time Lane County prosecutors have employed a similar “do not file” list. Perlow said it was used as recently as 2015. And she’s not sure how long the policy will be in effect this time.

“I would anticipate that it would take about a year to get the entry-level lawyers up to speed to be able to handle the volume of cases that we would want them to, and to continue to promote them into handling a felony caseload,” she said. “Assuming I don’t lose anymore lawyers, and I’m able to fill the two vacancies that I still have, I would say it’s probably going to be a couple of years before we’re to capacity.”

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