Felony filings in Boulder County
2018 to date: 1,042
The Boulder County District Attorney‘s Office has already filed more than 1,000 felony cases in 2018, an increase that is also being seen around the state.
A total of 1,042 felony cases have already been filed, which would put the Boulder County District Attorney‘s Office on pace for about 2,400. The office filed 2,347 felonies in 2017 and 2,230 in 2016, and before then had not filed more than 2,000 in a year.
“The District Attorney‘s Office is very focused on public safety, and we‘ve seen a dramatic increase in felony filings, including violent felonies,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said. “The violent felonies are particularly concerning, because every one of those has a victim.”
Dougherty said that misdemeanor filings have remained level over those years, which means the increase is a true increase in violent and serious crimes, not a change in prosecution philosophy. And he said it‘s not unique to Boulder.
“We‘ve seen an increase statewide,” Dougherty said.
In addition to the impact it has on community safety and victims, felonies put a strain on law enforcement and prosecution resources.
“Any increase in felony filings means an increased workload for everyone in a DA‘s office,” DA spokeswoman Catherine Olguin said. “If it‘s a violent crime case, that means more victim advocate time spent with the increased number of victims. Some violent crime cases have victims with a very large family, all of whom have rights under the VRA (Victim Right‘s Act). Serious felony cases almost always have more discovery—more police reports, photos, witness interviews, all of which must be processed by our office and discovered to defense.
“DA investigator time is also increased, particularly in cases with large numbers of witnesses. Legal secretaries have to deal with more paperwork—more motions are filed in felony cases— in (Adam) Densmore, trial defense filed more than 80 motions pre-trial, for example. It‘s not just the lawyers who feel the impact of increased felonies.”
Dougherty said he believes the opioid crisis facing Boulder County and the state might have something to do with the increase.
“I do believe the heroin and opioid epidemic, which has affected Boulder, can drive people to engage in property crime to feed their addiction,” Dougherty said. “These things are often being committed by people with a drug addiction.”
But Dougherty said there could be a positive aspect to the numbers if it is a result of more victims of typically under-reported crimes such as sexual assault and domestic violence coming forward.
“There is possibly a silver lining there, because we want those people to come forward,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said he wants to take a closer look at the numbers to see if he can spot more trends.
“I think we need to look at the data and do a deeper dive to figure out what‘s driving these numbers,” he said.
Until then, Dougherty said that his office can focus on restorative justice and diversion programs to try to bring the number of felony cases down and get people out of the cycle of re-offense.
“Most of the people who end up in the criminal justice system just need a little help getting to a better place,” Dougherty said. “The real opportunity for the criminal justice system is to help someone rather than just putting them in the pipeline where they get a felony conviction.
“Our mission is to do justice, and that means fighting for public safety and also means being innovative in criminal justice reform so that we can reduce the number of felonies being committed in Boulder County.”