The past year was an interesting one.

That is what Jenna Peterson, Redwood County attorney, shared with the Redwood County board Feb. 6 when she presented the 2017 summary of activity in the county attorney’s office.

Most noteworthy for 2017, said Peterson, is the dramatic increase in the number of cases the office handled.

“Our overall case intake increased by 24 percent from 2016,” said Peterson.

According to Peterson, a total of 543 adult cases were processed through the county attorney’s office last year compared to 467 in 2016, which reflects an increase of 16 percent.

There were 171 felony cases, 88 gross misdemeanor cases, 158 misdemeanor cases, 50 petty misdemeanor cases and 76 cases with denied charges.

Among the felony cases, person offenses had the highest number of cases with 65. Those, explained Peterson, are typically related to assaults.

Another area that had a high number of felony cases was drug offenses with 49. There were also 42 felony property offenses (any damage resulting in loss of $1,000 or more), nine sex offenses and six driving offenses. There were 41 gross misdemeanor driving offenses and 68 misdemeanor driving offenses. Most of the driving offenses are related to DWI and revoked licenses, said Peterson.

Of the total adult cases, there were eight jury trials in 2017, with seven convictions, for an 88 percent success rate.

Peterson did note that the number of jury trials was reduced in 2017, as there were 17 trials in 2016.

There were 151 adult probation violations in 2017, which resulted in 301 court appearances. That was a 23 percent increase over 2016. 

“When you have more cases there are going to be more probation violations,” Peterson said. “The two go hand in hand.”

Of concern for Peterson is the number of juvenile cases, which continues to increase. There were a total of 160 juvenile cases processed in 2017 compared to 135 in 2016.

That, added Peterson, reflects a 19 percent increase. There were 21 juvenile felony cases prosecuted, 11 gross misdemeanor cases, 90 misdemeanor cases, 25 petty misdemeanor cases and 13 cases were denied charges.

“This is the fourth straight year that our office has seen an increase in the number of juvenile cases,” said Peterson, adding the number has increased by 104 percent since 2014.

Peterson said she has been meeting with school officials to talk with them about the juvenile issues, adding she sees programs such as diversion and circle sentencing making a difference.

However, she added, the number of juvenile offenses is something that needs to be addressed. In addition to having a very busy caseload, the county attorney’s office saw major turnover.

Peterson stepped in to the county attorney role in the fall, with the resignation of Steven Collins, and the office also hired two new assistant county attorneys.

“The personnel changes have kept us very busy,” said Peterson, adding she appreciates the staff in the county attorney’s office and its efforts in 2017.

Peterson said the number of cases being filed in Redwood County has led to the decision by the Fifth Judicial District to increase the amount of hours that a judge is going to be presiding in the county.

In addition to one full-time judge, the county will have another of the district’s judges, Michelle Dietrich, spending time in the county overseeing cases.

“That change will start some time in March,” said Peterson.

Peterson said Redwood County is unique in that it brings in a lot of people because of its amenities and the major regional events it hosts. When those events are held people from outside of the county come in and a percentage of them are committing crimes.

The Office of Redwood County Attorney also works with Southwest Health and Human Services on a variety of issues, including child support and child protection, with the county attorney’s office also performing duties for other county departments as needed.