WHAT WE DO:
The Douglas County Attorney has a number of duties which are spelled out by state law. Primarily, those duties include:
Prosecuting Crimes. The County Attorney is the chief prosecutor for Douglas County. The County Attorney prosecutes felony and gross misdemeanor crimes that occur within the county, and misdemeanor crimes that occur in unincorporated areas of the county (this means areas of the county that are not within city limits). City attorneys prosecute misdemeanors and certain gross misdemeanors offenses that occur within a city.
In Minnesota, victims do not “press charges.” Decisions to prosecute a crime are made by prosecutors. There is a good reason for this: we do not want victims to be blamed for prosecutions, nor would we expect victims to understand the relative strengths or weaknesses of a criminal case. In deciding whether to prosecute a crime, we make every effort to consider the victim’s opinion. But, ultimately the decision is our legal responsibility.
Child Protection Cases. The Douglas County Attorney’s Office initiates Child in Need of Protection or Services Petitions (“CHIPS Petitions”) to protect abused or neglected children in Douglas County. The office also starts legal proceedings to protect the health and safety of vulnerable adults within the County when they are in need of assistance, files involuntary commitment actions to provide necessary treatment for individuals who are mentally ill or chemically dependent. For more information on Douglas County Social Services, click here...
Establishing and Enforcing Child Support. The Douglas County Attorney’s Office may establish child support and enforce that payments are made in certain cases. In such cases, there is no attorney-client relationship between the County Attorney and either parent or guardian. In child support cases, the County Attorney represents the County's interest in having children adequately supported and in collecting current and overdue child support. If your interests are ever different from the interest of the County, the County Attorney will represent the County's interest. You have the right to your own attorney and may hire one at any time. You may also decide to represent yourself. In paternity actions, if you cannot pay for an attorney, you may ask the court to appoint one for you.
Establishing Guardianships/Conservatorships. The Douglas County Attorney’s Office may establish Guardianships and/or Conservatorships for adults who are unable to safely manage their day-to-day affairs, or are unable to manage their finances. However, the County Attorney’s Office will not process such a request without a referral and recommendation from Douglas County Social Services.
Civil Commitments (Mentally Ill and/or Chemically Dependent). The Douglas County Attorney’s Office may seek judicial commitment to treatment facilities for those who are suffering from mental illness or chemical dependency. The County Attorney’s Office is unable to file a Petition for Commitment unless it can prove that the mental illness or chemical dependency is an immediate threat to the physical safety of that person, or the public. In addition, a qualified health-practitioner must support a commitment proceeding in a written statement to the court.
Public Assistance Abuse and Fraud. Unlike other crimes which are investigated by law enforcement agencies such as the Police Department or the Sheriff’s Office, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office has an in-house investigator who investigates public assistance fraud. This occurs when individuals provide inaccurate information when they apply for public benefits; when they fail to update changes in their circumstances when receiving such benefits; or when they misuse the money or benefits that they receive. The Douglas County Attorney’s Office will prosecute those who abuse their public assistance benefits.
HOW WE DO IT:
The Douglas County Attorney’s Office is comprised of the county attorney, assistant county attorneys, legal assistants, and a fraud investigator.
The Douglas County Attorney personally prosecutes high level felonies, advises the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on legal matters, advises heads of departments within the county, assists the Douglas County Hospital with legal matters, and manages the County Attorney’s Office.
The assistant county attorneys prosecute all other crimes within the jurisdiction, establish child protection cases, initiate and enforce child support cases and paternity, and seek judicial commitments, guardianships, and conservatorships where appropriate.
The legal assistants within the county attorney’s office work hand-in-hand with the attorneys from the initiation of a case to its completion. Their duties include case management, scheduling, witness and victim notification, disclosure of discovery, and direct public relations.
The Douglas County Attorney’s Office’s investigator specializes in, and only investigates, public assistance fraud cases.
WHAT WE CANNOT DO:
Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of a county attorney’s office:
We cannot provide legal advice to private citizens (regardless of whether you live in Douglas County or not).
This means that we cannot assist you with:
-boundary or property line disputes
-enforcing sales or service agreements
-establishing harassment restraining orders
-getting a divorce
-child custody / visitation disputes
-hypothetical questions regarding the legality of an act or omission
-expunging criminal records
-getting your driver’s license reinstated
-restoring your right to firearms
-products liability cases
These are just a few examples of legal issues that we cannot legal handle for you. Please seek the guidance of a qualified private attorney if you are facing such issues.