City pursues prosecution diversion

The council will review a pre-prosecution diversion contract for nonviolent offenses at its Oct. 12 meeting that could save the city at least $400 per case.

The council voted 5-1 to have city staff negotiate the contract with Friendship Diversion Services of Port Angeles. Councilor Erik Erichsen voted "no," and Mayor Laura Dubois was absent.

Acting City Manager

and City Attorney Craig Ritchie said pre-prosecution diversion can include

community service, counseling and monitoring for

nonviolent offenses.

Most often those are third-degree driving while license suspended, shoplifting and sometimes possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana, he said.

It saves money for the city and the defendant, who also avoids a criminal record, Ritchie said.

Port Angeles and Clallam County both use Friendship Diversion Services.

The diversion provides some accountability and doesn't endanger the public because they are nonviolent offenses, Ritchie said.

The person pays Friendship Diversion Services and the city saves at least $400 in the court filing fee, public defender cost and sometimes more, he said.

Erichsen said he wasn't comfortable letting criminals go free because these nonviolent offenses lead to worse crimes later.

"The research doesn't show that," said Police Chief Robert Spinks, adding it would be used for people judged not likely to reoffend.

People cited for third-degree driving while license suspended are not habitual offenders and it would overburden his budget to try all those cases, Spinks said.

Ritchie said those charges comprise one-third of the city's court cases.

Councilor Ken Hays said, "All the comments I've heard is it's generally a positive program."

Reach Brian Gawley at

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