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County Attorney News Releases

Contact:

Monica Jensen
651-438-4440

2013 Adult Felony Criminal Prosecutions in Dakota County
​OVERVIEW
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom has released statistics for adult felony criminal prosecutions handled by his Office in 2013.  These statistics reflect the total number of adults charged with felonies in Dakota County.  The County Attorney is responsible for the prosecution of all felonies committed by adults, which includes persons 18 years of age and over and any juveniles certified for prosecution as adults.  According to Backstrom:

• The total number of adults charged  with felony offenses in Dakota County decreased by almost 4% (1,545  adults were charged with a felony-level offense in 2013, compared to 1,602 in 2012). 

ADULTS CHARGED WITH FELONIES (BY CITY/JURISDICTION)
The following reflects the number of adults that were charged with felonies referred from individual cities and the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office in Dakota County:

Apple Valley increased from 149 to 153
Burnsville increased from 286 to 298
Dakota County Sheriff decreased from 152 to 99
Eagan increased from 195 to 251
Farmington decreased from 38 to 33
Hastings decreased from 117 to 87
Inver Grove Heights decreased from 108 to 107
Lakeville increased from 109 to 140
Mendota Heights decreased from 29 to 19
Rosemount decreased from 52 to 31
South St. Paul decreased from 144 to 132
West St. Paul decreased from 176 to 136

ILLEGAL DRUG OFFENSES CONTINUE AS TOP PROBLEM
The number of drug-related offenses continues to represent the largest category of cases charged by the Dakota County Attorney’s Office.  The total number of defendants charged with drug offenses in 2013 represents approximately 23% of the entire felony caseload of the Dakota County Attorney’s Office.  (See the attached chart for drug trends in the past ten years).  A total of 350  adults were charged with felony drug crimes in Dakota County in 2013, down from 389 the year before.  

MOST COMMON DRUG PROSECUTIONS:
Although the number of individuals charged with drug-related crimes has decreased, the amount of drugs seized has increased significantly. 
Meth-related – 148 individuals charged (172 in 2012). [One significant case involved the seizure of 12 pounds of meth in Burnsville, along with handguns and cash.]
Marijuana – 68 individuals charged (72 in 2012).  [One significant case involved the seizure of over 56 pounds of marijuana in Inver Grove Heights.]
Prescription drugs – 54 individuals charged (62 in 2012).
Cocaine – 37 individuals charged (50 in 2012). [One significant case involved the seizure of 6 pounds of cocaine along with 2 pounds of meth in Inver Grove Heights.]
Heroin – 25 individuals charged (30 in 2012). [One significant case involved the seizure of over 2 pounds of heroin (25,730.5 grams) in Apple Valley, one of the largest heroin busts in Dakota County’s history.]

Backstrom commented: “Illegal drug use in Dakota County and across our state and nation is an enormous problem.  We continue to work hard with our law enforcement partners to protect our community from drug offenders and to hold them accountable for their crimes.  We also work with others in the criminal justice system to reduce the ongoing cycle of drug abuse.”

Backstrom praised the continued efforts of the Dakota County Drug Task Force, which consists of officers from the Dakota County Sheriff's Office and police departments in the cities of Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Farmington, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville, Mendota Heights, Rosemount, South St. Paul, West St. Paul and Savage.  Backstrom commented: “This coordinated law enforcement effort is extremely effective in combating illegal drug activity.  The Dakota County Drug Task Force, which relies heavily on federal grant funding, is vital in getting illegal drugs off our streets.  By working together, we can reduce the problems associated with the use of methamphetamine, marijuana and other illegal drugs in our community.” 

Many individuals who commit drug-related crimes are themselves addicted to drugs.  The Dakota County Attorney collaborates with District Court Judges and a team of staff from Dakota County Community Corrections, law enforcement, and other criminal justice professionals in Dakota County’s Adult Drug Court.  Drug Court effectively and efficiently addresses repeat and non-violent drug offenders who demonstrate a willingness to address their chemical addiction. The goal of Drug Court is to resolve cases in a more proactive way, holding offenders accountable with an emphasis on needed treatment and reducing overall recidivism.  Currently, there are 34 offenders in the Adult Drug Court program (11 adults referred in 2013) working to complete the three phases of the program which involve frequent court appearances and intensive supervision.  A total of 40 offenders have graduated since the start of the program in September of 2008.

CRIMES OF VIOLENCE
In 2013, 412 adults were charged with 621 violent offenses in Dakota County.  As to charges, this represents a decrease from the 552 adults charged with 712 violent crime charges filed in 2012.  The following is a breakdown of these crimes:
9     individuals were charged with murder, attempted murder or manslaughter
7     individuals were charged with criminal vehicular homicide/injury
196 individuals were charged with felony assault (includes domestic-related)
58   individuals were charged with felony sex-related
8     individuals were charged with kidnapping
117 individuals were charged with terroristic threats
37   individuals were charged with robbery   
30   individuals were charged with dangerous weapons  

Backstrom stated: “It is important to keep in mind that despite increases in violent crime charges in the past two years, our violent crime rate is statistically quite low for the size of our County.  Dakota County remains a safe community in which to live.”

DEFENDANTS CHARGED WITH MURDER
Backstrom stated, “Dakota County historically has averaged about three homicides/year which is a remarkably low number for a jurisdiction of over 400,000 persons.”  In 2013 in Dakota County 9 adults were charged with murder, attempted murder or manslaughter involving 5 victims compared to 9 persons charged with murder and attempted murder involving 4 victims in 2012.

FELONY STRANGULATION CASES DECREASE
It is a felony to strangle or attempt to strangle someone during a domestic violence struggle.  A total of 63 adults were charged with felony domestic violence in Dakota County in 2013 (compared to 85 in 2012).  Backstrom commented:  “Domestic violence is a significant problem in our society and we need to protect the victims of these serious crimes as well as hold offenders accountable for these acts of violence.”  Most domestic violence-related cases are either misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor and are handled by city attorneys.

FELONY DWI’S CONTINUE TO DECREASE
Each year in Minnesota, more than 32,000 people are arrested for DWI.  There were 31 individuals charged with felony-level DWI in Dakota County in 2013 (compared to 35 in 2012).  A felony DWI occurs if an offender has been previously convicted of three DWI’s in the last 10 years (among several other ways) and commits a fourth DWI offense.  A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time.  There are stronger sanctions for all repeat DWI offenders, as well as for motorists arrested for a first-time DWI with an alcohol concentration level of 0.16 and above.  Under these sanctions, DWI offenders must use ignition interlock for at least a year or face at least one year without driving privileges.  Ignition interlock requires the driver to provide a breath sample under 0.02 for the vehicle to start.  As with most domestic violence-related cases, city attorneys prosecute the bulk of DWI’s (misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors) in Dakota County and do an excellent job on these important cases.

In 2013, there was a decrease in the number of deaths in motor vehicle crashes in Minnesota (377  persons were killed in 2013 compared to 395 in 2012).  Approximately one out of every three fatalities in Minnesota is alcohol-related.  In Dakota County last year, 18 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes with an estimated 23% being alcohol-related, compared to 19 individuals who died in 2012 in such crashes.

Backstrom praised Dakota County law enforcement agencies for their ongoing commitment to eliminate driving under the influence and keeping our roadways safe.  Backstrom commented: “We must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent impaired driving which kills or seriously injures thousands of people each year in America.  I remain committed to preventing these senseless tragedies from happening in our community.”

PROPERTY CRIMES DECREASED
In 2013, 631 adults were charged with 742 felony-level property criminal charges in Dakota County, compared to 641 adults charged with 783 such charges in 2012.  The following is a breakdown of these crimes: 
     238 individuals charged with theft-related offenses
 127 individuals charged with forgery or credit card fraud
 126 individuals charged with burglary
   96 individuals charged with stolen property
   44 individuals charged with criminal damage to property
 
FINANCIAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMES
Backstrom said his Office prosecuted a number of complex financial crimes involving theft of funds or embezzlement from a company or organization.  Backstrom explained: “Financial crimes can be very complex and involve many hours of investigation by law enforcement, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Minnesota Department of Revenue, and the prosecutor assigned to the case.”  There were 6 individuals charged in Dakota County last year with theft, theft by swindle or theft by false representation involving losses to businesses, government agencies, faith communities, and youth-serving organizations, with victim losses totaling over $725,000.00 compared to 8 such cases charged in 2012.  “These crimes involve significant financial losses in addition to a serious breach of trust,” Backstrom added. 

SERVING VICTIMS OF CRIME
The Victim/Witness Unit of the Dakota County Attorney’s Office served hundreds of victims in 2013.  In addition to providing adult and juvenile victims what is required by statute, advocates explain the charges, the criminal justice process, how to receive restitution, write a victim impact statement and all other aspects of their case.  Staff also accompany the victim to court as needed.  “Assisting crime victims who have suffered great personal trauma or financial loss is one of the most important services provided by the Dakota County Attorney’s Office,” Backstrom noted.    

CRIMINAL APPEALS
Backstrom indicated that his Office was involved in filing or responding to 44 appeals in criminal cases in 2013, compared to 43 in 2012.  Appeals involve significant staff resources and are necessary in efforts to insure accountability for criminal offenders and the fair administration of justice.

COURT HEARINGS
A total of 14,083 court calendar events were scheduled in 2013 involving cases prosecuted by the Dakota County Attorney’s Office (compared to 14,088 in 2012). 

Attached is a chart detailing adults charged with felony-level crimes and the number of charges filed by the Dakota County Attorney’s Office in 2013.  Also attached are charts comparing statistical information about adult felony prosecutions for the last decade. This information is also available on the Dakota County Attorney website at: Dakota County Website under Law & Justice.

If you have any questions, contact James Backstrom at 651-438-4440.