AN OVERVIEW OF CRIMINAL PROSECUTION
A team of 17 attorneys prosecutes 80,000 or more cases annually in Fayette District Court. Offenses range from traffic citations to the most serious felony.
Misdemeanor crimes are punishable by up to one year in the county jail or a fine up to $500, or both.
Charges prosecuted include:
Murder, Assault, Rape and sexual offenses, Burglary, Domestic violence, Drug trafficking and possession, Robbery, Shoplifting, DUI’s, Theft, Receiving stolen property
Misdemeanor charges may be negotiated and resolved by the defendant entering a plea of guilty, or may be amended, or dismissed. If cases cannot be resolved, they are scheduled for trial.
A felony charge can be resolved in District Court if it is amended to a misdemeanor. Otherwise, all felony charges are heard by a District Judge in a Preliminary Hearing.
A Preliminary Hearing is a procedure in which the county attorney’s office presents sufficient evidence to the Court to establish that it is probable the accused individual committed the offense. The level of proof does not require that the evidence be beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Judge believes there is sufficient evidence, the case will be held to the Fayette County Grand Jury, which is supervised by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
The defendant may waive a felony charge to the grand jury.
TRAFFIC OFFENSES AND TRAFFIC COURT
All traffic offenses, except for Driving Under the Influence, Fleeing the Police, and Operating on a Suspended License, are usually cited to traffic court. For the convenience of the working public, this court is held at 4:30 p.m. every Monday–Thursday. It is presided over by a Traffic Commissioner rather than an elected judge. The Fayette County Attorney’s Office is the prosecutor for these cases.
Our office attempts to work as much as possible with the public to ensure our roads are safe for all citizens. In an effort to accommodate everyone, our prosecutors show up for traffic court by 4 p.m. to talk with anyone on that day’s traffic docket. Additionally, we have set up a traffic hotline at (859) 226-1828 for anyone who has a question about their case. If you call, please leave your court date, name (as listed on the citation), number where you can be reached during the day, and the issue you wish to discuss. A prosecutor will return your call the day of your traffic case.
All charges on the traffic court docket are subject to fines and court costs only. If jail is an option, the charge should not be cited to the traffic docket. If you wish to contest your ticket and request a jury trial, your case will be moved to a daytime docket before an elected judge.
As County Attorney, I believe that it is crucial for the development of our children for them to attend school. Unfortunately, there are families who do not put a high priority on school attendance. When a pattern is developed with elementary school children, it usually continues to middle and high school. Ninety percent of the children who come through our juvenile court have serious truancy problems.
Kentucky law (KRS 159.150) defines a habitual truant as a school-age child accumulating six or more unexcused absences and/or tardies within one school year. When a child initially accumulates three unexcused absences and/or tardies, the school sends a letter to the parent or guardian concerning attendance.
When a child accumulates six or more unexcused absences and/or tardies, the school sends another letter advising the parent or guardian of the continuing infractions. Upon a child’s accumulation of nine unexcused absences and /or tardies, the school sends the parent or guardian a letter advising of the legal consequences of the absences.
After the ninth unexcused absence and/or tardy, a referral to the Pupil Personnel Office is made by the school. After a review of the referral and notification by the Pupil Personnel Office, a complaint for failure to send the child to school may be filed against the parent or guardian of the habitually truant child. Parents or legal guardians of habitually truant children, ages six through twelve years old, are prosecuted pursuant to KRS 159.010 for failing to send their children to school.
First and second offenses of the statute may only result in fines. Third and subsequent offenses are amended to Unlawful Transaction with a Minor, Third Degree. This offense is a Class A misdemeanor for which a defendant can receive up to a five hundred dollar fine and/or twelve months in jail. When a child attains the age of thirteen or over and accumulates six or more unexcused absences and/or tardies, he or she is charged with the status offense of being habitually truant. These cases are prosecuted in the Fayette County Family Courts.
The Fayette County Attorney’s Office sees criminal prosecution as a last resort. In an effort to prevent truancy in Fayette County, the office has teamed with Fayette County Public Schools and other community partners in order to offer preventive programs such as the Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) and the Truancy Diversion Project (TDP).
We presently have 12 prosecutors who are assigned to elementary and middle schools. The programs identify families with attendance issues in previous years and invite them to participate in a monthly meeting at their child’s school. During that meeting, parents meet with an Assistant County Attorney, school personnel and an Assistant Director of Pupil Personnel for Fayette County Schools.
Parents are provided with a current attendance record and academic progress report for their child. After reviewing the records, parents meet with the team and discuss how to remove any stumbling blocks in the way of the child receiving an education. As long as parents continue to attend the meetings and progress with their child improving their attendance, they will not be prosecuted for failing to send their children to school.
The protection of and assistance to victims of domestic violence is a primary goal of the Fayette County Attorney’s Office. We accomplish this by providing victim advocates to assist in securing civil protective orders and in criminally prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence.
Our office works as a team to assure that victims are protected. This team includes assistance to the victims and prosecution of the perpetrators. Once a charge is in the criminal justice system, either through a private complaint being filed or an officer arrest or a civil protective order filed, our office assigns a victim advocate to contact and assist the victim in any way possible. The advocates help co-ordinate numerous agencies that can provide the victim with both physical and mental well-being support. They also serve as a liaison for the victim through the court system providing information, guidance and reassurance.
Criminal domestic violence cases include violations of protective orders, stalking, harassment, assaults, and threats. These cases are prosecuted as aggressively as possible. We operate on a “no-drop” policy on criminal domestic violence cases. Prosecution utilizes an “evidence-based” approach. The criminal case proceeds if there is competent evidence to substantiate the charge without further endangering the safety of the victim.
Civil protective orders are filed with the domestic violence clerks on the 4th floor of the District Court Building. They can be filed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once the motion is filed, it is immediately reviewed by a judge. The judge may deny the order, or if granted, it will be valid for two weeks when both parties are to be before the judge for review of the situation. The order cannot be enforced against the respondent until he/she is given notice of it. The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for getting notice to the respondent. At the hearing with both parties before the judge, the order may be modified and can be granted for up to three years.
The County Attorney’s Office prosecutes juveniles charged with status and public offenses. These charges include the status offenses of habitual runaway, habitual truancy and beyond control of parent or guardian. They also include public offenses (which would be criminal charges if filed against an adult), such as Theft by Unlawful Taking (shoplifting), Burglary, Assault, Possession of Marijuana, Minor in Possession of Alcohol, along with Robbery and Homicide. In very serious offenses, a juvenile defendant will start in Juvenile Court but may be eventually waived up to Circuit Court for the juvenile to be tried as an adult, if the statutory requirements are met.
Juvenile Court is a confidential court with the exception of records being available for juveniles adjudicated guilty of either a capital, Class A, B or C felony. Access to those juvenile records is available at the Juvenile Division of the District Court Clerk’s Office. The County Attorney, in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, maintains a log of juveniles adjudicated guilty of offenses involving firearms. The County Attorney’s Office seeks to collect restitution for the victims of juvenile offenses.