LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (7News) — In a letter obtained by 7News, Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Buta Biberaj said her office won't be directly involved in the prosecution of certain misdemeanor charges and most cases will be deferred to law enforcement and the courts for prosecution.
The move is being made to focus resources on prosecuting violent crimes, Biberaj said.
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Here is the list of charges that will no longer be prioritized by the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and instead be handled by law enforcement and the courts:
Biberaj held a news conference Friday on the Courthouse Grounds to clarify that it's not that the listed misdemeanors and traffic citations won't get prosecuted. It's that her office won't be directly involved so that prosecutors can focus more on violent crime and domestic violence cases.
"They will be prosecuted, there will be accountability that doesn't change. We're offering transparency on what we're going to do and how we're going to our resources," Biberaj said at the news conference.
She also added that the letter was sent out "prematurely" and sent to Loudoun County judges as a conversation about what was ahead due to resources.
You can read the letter below:
I would like to have the opportunity to present to you changes that are occurring in the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney that may impact your courts. I welcome the opportunity to discuss these changes and to have your comments and perspective as it relates to my intention to have our attorneys focus on the prosecution of jury trials in Circuit Court, and crimes that are violent and pose greater harm to our community.
As you may know, with the increase in the trials in Circuit Court and the introduction of body worn camera and related recordings in each case, the OCA is inundated and left with insufficient time to prosecute every infraction and low-level offense that is charged. To better serve our community and to ensure that we are providing safety and justice, we need to reallocate our resources towards the more egregious cases that are being charged by law enforcement and threaten the safety of our community. 'The most appropriate way for us to do so is to redirect our resources towards the crimes of violence and felonious criminal acts.
To provide the resources necessary to address the volume and intensity of the violent crimes and felonies, beginning with violations having been committed after January 16, 2023 we will defer to the court and law enforcement those cases that involve the following:
1. Traffic Offenses;
a. traffic infractions (the consequences are fines);
B. reckless driving - speeding under 90 mph;
c. first offense driving on suspended / no operator's license;
d. hit & run -property damage;
e. ecluding: and;
f. registration and titling offenses;
2. Criminal Offenses - includes those offenses that are statutorily eligible for deferred findings:
a. Trespass (deferred finding eligible);
b. Petty Larceny;
c. Possession of Schedule III / IV (deferred finding eligible);
d. Drunk in Public (max fine is $250);
e. Underage Possession of Alcohol (deferred finding eligible);
f. Noise Complaints;
g. Violations of Ordinances;
h. Failure to Appears; and
i. Trials in Absence (not punishable by jail/fine only).
Our need to dedicate more time on the more egregious cases in General District Court (such as DUIs and assaults), crimes of violence in the Juvenile Courts (such as domestic violence, crimes against children, and the increase of violent crimes by juveniles), serious and violent crimes, felonies and trials in Circuit Court reduces our availability to prosecute the infractions and low-level, non-violent offenses.
As these changes will apply to offenses that are committed after January 16, 2023, it is anticipated that the current cases pending will not be impacted. We will collaborate with our law enforcement partners to provide trainings and guidance so that they are best prepared to present these cases to your courts.
Please let me know when you are available to meet with me (and anyone else in the Bar Association) if you are so inclined. As always, we are here to serve.
Thank you for your continued support and your service to our community
Friday morning, Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman released the following statement to 7News regarding the letter:
“While we have not received any official correspondence from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney regarding the coming changes in prosecution, we have just been made aware that a memorandum submitted by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney to the General District Court that indicates that law enforcement officers will no longer have assistance from a prosecutor in many General District Court cases.
While we are disappointed in this action by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, we are doing everything in our power to support our deputies through this transition and will make every effort to ensure that we continue to partner with the community to provide the same great service to the everyone in Loudoun County.”
The changes will go into effect on Monday.
Editor's Note: Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Buta Biberaj held a news conference Friday to clarify a letter released to the public saying her office would stop prosecuting certain misdemeanor crimes. Following the news conference, 7News included her clarification in this article.