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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Officers prosecuting own misdemeanor cases

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Daily Press Staff Writer

The Eddy County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) and the Fifth Judicial District Attorney appear to be at odds over which department is responsibile for prosecuting crimes such as DWI and domestic violence.

During the Eddy County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Sheriff Ernest J. Mendoza reported statistics for the ECSO regarding officer-prosecuted cases.

In short, the department claims that when District Attorney Janetta Hicks took office at the beginning of the year, she advised all law enforcement agencies within the Fifth Judicial District that district attorneys would no longer prosecute misdemeanor cases for the agencies.

According to Mendoza and Chief Deputy Sheriff Kent Waller, the change in policy has left the ECSO spending about a third of its time preparing cases. Since the beginning of the year, the ECSO says it has prosecuted over 300 misdemeanor cases, ranging from simple traffic violations to DWI and domestic violence.

“… Deputies don’t go through law school to learn how to prosecute,” ECSO Captain Leon Newman said today. “It is our opinion that our deputies should be out on the streets, not prosecuting in the courtroom.”

While the ECSO has been scrambling to prosecute cases, Hicks told the Daily Press today, “The bottom line is the policy hasn’t changed since I took office. We stand ready and willing to take all domestic violence and DWI cases. […]

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