The Felony and Juvenile Division reviews and prosecute all felony crimes committed by adult offenders as well as all juvenile crimes in Kitsap County. A felony is any charge in which the maximum penalty exceeds one year. The Felony and Juvenile Division is responsible for a case from the initial review and charging, through the appellate process. The division also provides around-the-clock legal investigative support to all Kitsap County law enforcement agencies. The Felony and Juvenile Division has previously been comprised of the General Trial Unit (GTU), Vice Unit (Vice), Special Assault Unit (SAU), Juvenile Unit and the Appellate Unit. We combined the GTU and Vice Units in 2019, and added a Treatment Court Unit, thanks to the 1/10th of 1% grant for mental health and chemical dependency treatment.
Deputy prosecuting attorneys review each referral from law enforcement for a felony offense and (1) charge a crime or crimes based on the information in the referred police reports, (2) request additional investigation, or (3) decline to prosecute if the facts do not support criminal charges. Once a referral is charged and filed, the felony division handles the criminal prosecution until there is a final disposition such as a guilty plea or trial with a jury verdict. The felony division will also handle all appeals to the Washington State Court of Appeals or Washington State Supreme Court.
Cami Lewis is the Felony Division Chief. Ms. Lewis has spent most of her career prosecuting sex offenses and domestic violence. She has helped create partnerships between law enforcement and community groups that are focused on providing victim services.
The General Trial/Vice Unit prosecutes violent crimes, property crimes and financial crimes. This unit processes the majority of all adult felony referrals and has the most diverse criminal caseload. Cases can include burglaries, assaults, robberies, financial crimes, drug and firearm offenses. The unit works closely with members of the local drug task forces, chemical dependency treatment providers, and community groups.
Special Assault Unit
The Special Assault Unit (SAU) prosecutes sex offenses, crimes against children and crimes of domestic violence. Our SAU building has office space available for the Kitsap Sexual Assault Center (KSAC), the Kitsap YWCA, Special Assault Investigation and Victim's Services (SAIVS), and local law enforcement. This has allowed us to build strong community partnerships to serve victims of crime.
Treatment Court Unit
We have been able to create a Treatment Court Unit in 2019 thanks to three grant funded positions. Treatment courts have a long history in Kitsap County. Barb Dennis is the senior prosecutor who has taken on the responsibility of creating this new unit. Ms. Dennis has been active with treatment courts for several years and is tasked with creating a new system that will streamline our treatment court processes and increase the available capacity for these courts.
Kitsap was one of the first counties in Washington to create a Drug Court program. Today, we continue to have a successful Drug Court, but have also added a Veterans Court, Behavioral Health Court, Human Trafficking Diversion Court, Felony Diversion Program, and Residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative Program. The Treatment Court Unit screens all cases where defendants are seeking entry into a rehabilitative treatment court and ensures that defendants with violent history are not accepted.
Our treatment courts are each designed to hold offenders accountable for their conduct, but also give them an opportunity for treatment and rehabilitation. Drug Court allows individuals that commit crimes because of their addiction, to seek help through chemical dependency treatment. Veterans Court is a program designed to help defendants who have previously served our country obtain assistance and resources to become productive members of the community. Often, a veteran's criminal behavior has a direct correlation to their service in the armed forces. The Human Trafficking Diversion Program is a unique program designed to connect victims of human trafficking with resources and treatment.
Beginning in the fall of 2016, Kitsap County's first Behavioral Health Court (BHC) was launched to address behavioral health issues within the context of the criminal justice system, which is simply ill-equipped to handle serious behavioral health issues. These issues affect a significant portion of the criminal defendant population. BHC addresses the underlying cause of the criminal behavior for these particular defendants, which left unaddressed is a virtual guarantee for recidivist criminal conduct.
The Felony Diversion Program continues to be an increasingly important part of our office. This program allows carefully selected first time offenders the opportunity to make restitution to their victims and seek treatment to avoid a felony conviction. This program has been an opportunity for us to incorporate principles of restorative justice. The goal of restorative justice is to give the offender an opportunity to repair the damage caused to victims of crime. Our diversion program seeks victim input and requires offenders to recognize the damage their conduct has caused before being accepted into the program. Not every offender will be considered for the Felony Diversion Program. However, it is proving to be an effective program for dealing with low-risk offenders who are seeking to take responsibility for their conduct.
Our Juvenile Unit is responsible for the charging and disposition of all referrals of criminal conduct by people under the age of 18. The juvenile justice system is oriented toward rehabilitation of young offenders. The Juvenile Unit is supervised by Senior Deputy Prosecutor Todd Dowell. He is the foremost expert on juvenile law in the State of Washington. The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys calls on him to organize state-wide trainings each year to teach the intricacies of juvenile law to new prosecutors. As a result, prosecutors around the state repeatedly seek Mr. Dowell's input on their most complex legal issues.
Our juvenile court continues to focus on treatment options and court efficiencies. Our treatment courts, Integrated Treatment Court (ITC) and Juvenile Drug Court have received 1/10th of 1% grants the last four years. With the grant money, we continue to improve and enhance those programs. We work together with defense attorneys and probation counselors to steer all appropriate incoming youth to our treatment courts so they can get the treatment, support, services they need, and have their cases dismissed if they successfully complete the program.
Our office is responsible for most of the criminal appeals filed by defendants convicted in Kitsap County. The Appellate Unit consists of two Deputy Prosecutors, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Randall Sutton and Deputy Prosecutor John Cross.
An appeal is a claim made to a higher court alleging that the judge presiding over a trial or hearing made a legal mistake. For example, consider a defendant charged with drug possession based on methamphetamine found on his person when he was stopped by the police for speeding. If the defendant thinks that the evidence was gathered in violation of his right to be free from unlawful searches, he or she will seek to have the evidence suppressed by the trial court. If the trial judge allows the evidence, and the defendant is convicted, the defendant may appeal the ruling admitting the evidence.
Appeals from the District and Municipal Courts go to the Superior Court, appeals from the Superior Court generally go to the state Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court, in its discretion, may choose to hear appeals from the Court of Appeals, and in rare instances from the Superior or District and Municipal Courts.
Unlike a trial court, the appellate court does not take evidence or hear testimony. It makes its decision solely on the written record, which consists of the documents filed in the trial court and the transcript of the trial and hearings prepared by the court reporter. A good portion of the time consumed in preparing appeals is often devoted to digesting this written record, which in complex cases can run thousands of pages.
Much of the time, the job of the Appellate Unit is to convince the appellate court that the trial was proper and fair. Thus, one of the most important roles our appellate lawyers fill is advising the trial prosecutors on how to avoid reversible error in the first place. The tactical decisions made in the course of a trial, such as what witnesses to call, what testimony to present, and what evidence to introduce, set the stage for future appeals. We teach trial lawyers to check with the appellate unit when faced with a choice that may produce reversible error. Deputies Sutton and Cross regularly attend meetings of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys Appellate Committee to help coordinate appellate strategy with deputy prosecutors from the larger jurisdictions in Washington.