The Redwood County Attorney’s Office does not set out to achieve the kind of record it accomplished in 2012, but with 17 jury trials – including 16 convictions and one acquittal, the office did just that.
The Redwood County Attorney’s Office does not set out to achieve the kind of record it accomplished in 2012, but with 17 jury trials – including 16 convictions and one acquittal, the office did just that.“According to the information we received from the court administrator’s office, that is a record,” said Steven Collins, Redwood County attorney. “It was a very busy year for us.”The 17 jury trials were merely the tip of the legal iceberg for the office that includes two assistant attorneys and three other staff members who Collins said do a lot of the work behind the scenes to make the attorney’s office function as well as it does.While the jury trial list is not atypical, said Collins, especially when one considers the unique situation that is Redwood County.“We have a county with a diverse population and with major roads, like 19, 14 and 71 going through the county we see a large transient population as well,” Collins said, adding the traffic coming through a county that hosts a casino also adds to the county’s uniqueness. “We get a lot of people who come to our county who would not come here otherwise because of what is offered here.”Collins, who presented the stats from 2012 to the Redwood County Board of Commissioners recently, said there were 363 criminal case files reviewed, and of those 252 complaints were filed. There were 2,377 misdemeanor actions in 2012.According to Collins, his office sees a lot of assault cases, and he said it is in that area where a good portion of their time is spent.That, he added, includes everything from bar fights to domestics, and he said when someone threatens to hurt or does hurt someone the consequences can be significant. Another issue Collins said which is prevalent in Red-wood County is drug use.“Redwood County has a drug problem,” said Collins. “We have a lot of users and an obvious market.”One of the drugs which has been showing up in Redwood County for some time is heroin. Collins said heroin is not as much of an issue in surrounding counties, because it is an expensive drug to buy.Collins said the reality is there are drugs in the county because there is a demand.“It’s the basic economic theory of supply and demand,” he said, adding there have been strong efforts to prevent drug use in the county, as certain drugs, such as methamphetamine, have seen a drop in use because of reduced availability. When laws were put in place limiting access to the ingredients to make meth and meth houses were found and eliminated, the amount of meth went down.A major drug bust in December 2011 kept Collins’ office busy, as there were 33 separate complaints filed.All of those cases were resolved with convictions. Six of the individuals went to drug court, 12 defendants were sent to prison and others did local jail time.There was a conviction as a result of stabbing in the county last year – with a prison sentence, and a criminal sexual conduct conviction. That defendant is being sentenced next week.Most of the trials in the county are related to DWI.Collins said there are certainly a number of repeat offenders when it comes to DWI, but he said the majority of those who are convicted of DWI do not offend again because of the county’s first-time sentence.Redwood County has a two-day stay for all first-time DWI convictions, and Collins believes that has been a major deterrent for people.“I think it has impacted the mindset,” said Collins. “People find out jail is not fun, and they decide they don’t want to go back.”When it comes to DWI convictions, Collins said he does not believe the .08 law impacted the outcome, as the majority of those who are stopped are in the .10-.19 range. He also said the tests, along with video available makes convictions easier to accomplish.Redwood County, in comparison to other counties in the region, show Redwood on top in 2012 with 142 felonies, compared to 136 in Lyon County (which has 9,000 more people), 94 in Brown County and 92 in Renville County.Collins has seen changes in juvenile cases in the time he has been county attorney, and he believes programs, such as circle sentencing are having a positive impact.Collins said he has no idea what could be in store for 2013, but he said his office is going to serve the public to the best of its ability regardless of what comes.