The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has added two more dashboards with data of incoming cases. One details cases filed at magistration after an individual is arrested; the other details the current caseload of the Criminal Trial Division.
“Data collection within the DA’s Office, when done, was often done by hand prior to the start of my administration in January 2019. This made it difficult to know what was happening with cases. Over the last 2 years, we have begun to improve our ability to collect and analyze data. Now that we have a better idea of what we have in this office, I have decided to make this information publicly available. It is important the public know how its District Attorney’s Office is working,” said Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales.
The Magistrate Dashboard shows 5,343 cases have been received at the Justice Intake and Assessment Annex (JIAA) in December 2020. It is important to note that these numbers do not represent the total of arrests made by law enforcement, as some people may have been arrested on multiple charges.
“The sheer volume of arrest cases our office receives at JIAA each month represents just one portion of the total caseloads of our prosecutors, investigators and support staff,” Gonzales said.
The dashboard shows a majority of the arrest cases (83.7%) were accepted and had a bond set by a judge. In these cases, both the Assistant District Attorney on site and the magistrate judge accepted the charges. Nearly ten percent of arrest cases were accepted and remanded without bond by a judge. Often, those defendants are held without bond because they have violated parole conditions. They may also have a pending motion to revoke their probation, are wanted for an out of county or out of state warrant or the company/surety who posted a defendant’s bond filed an Affidavit of Surety to Surrender. Only about 8% of the arrest cases in December 2020 were rejected at magistration.
There were 4,473 cases accepted at JIAA by both the ADA and the magistrate judge. The offense most commonly accepted at magistration in December 2020 was for Driving While Intoxicated (277). The offense most often rejected at magistration for the same time period was Possession of Marijuana 0-2 oz. This is often because of the DA Office’s Drug Declination Policy.
“Our policy to not accept certain low-level drug offenses (absent exceptional circumstances) was implemented primarily to allow our staff to focus our efforts on prosecuting violent crimes, as those are cases with victims awaiting justice. In November, family violence cases made up the majority of the violent crime arrests accepted at magistration,” Gonzales said.
The dashboard also includes data on the race of people arrested by case.
Of the 37 law enforcement agencies that made arrests in Bexar County in November, the San Antonio Police Department made the most (3,379).
The dashboard also allows the viewer to sort the data by arresting agency, charge description, charge level, race and gender.
The Criminal Trial Pending Cases Dashboard includes data from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Bexar County issued stay home orders and the Texas Supreme Court brought jury trials to a halt. As of March 16, 2020, the number of indicted felony cases pending trial by the CTD was 3,387. By December 27, 2020, that number stood at 6,605.
“Each of these cases gets closer review after magistration and filing by law enforcement. After that, prosecutors may file an information in the case of misdemeanor offenses or a grand jury may return a true bill of indictment in the case of felony offenses. Cases may also be referred back to law enforcement for further investigation or dismissed for a variety of issues including missing witnesses and the inability of our office to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt – the standard for all criminal cases in court,” Gonzales said.
For both time periods, possession of a controlled substance penalty group 1 less than 1 gram (a state jail felony – the lowest level felony offense) is the top pending offense. Other felony drug offenses are also at the top of both lists. Aggravated robberies and aggravated assaults with a deadly weapon also rank high in the number of cases pending trial.
In-person jury trials are presently on hold. Virtual jury trials are allowed, but must be approved by both the State and Defense.
“During the pandemic, courts have held virtual proceedings and limited in-person hearings. This has made reducing the number of pending cases especially challenging. While we are eager for jury trials to resume so that we can adjudicate these cases, I want the public to know that it is often the oldest pending cases that courts prioritize. This will mean that people who are victims of crime in 2020 may have to wait much longer for justice than they, as well as I, would like. However, I want everyone to know our office has been moving cases through the system as best we can so that we can be prepared for courts to resume jury trials,” Gonzales said.
These dashboards are preceded by the Family Violence Dashboard and the Cite and Release Dashboard.