WHAT DOES THE D.A. DO?
WARREN MONTGOMERY FOR THE PEOPLE
The District Attorney’s office primarily prosecutes, on behalf of the citizens of the district, defendants who break our state laws. The office is staffed by attorneys who work with law enforcement and outside agencies to present evidence to a judge or jury who then determine guilt or innocence. Warren’s office also advises parish government and boards and commissions on civil matters. D.A. Montgomery represents the 22nd Judicial District which comprises both Washington and St. Tammany Parish.
Law enforcement is responsible for collecting evidence for cases submitted to the DA’s office for prosecution. DA investigators sometimes investigate crimes and offenses on their own or working with law enforcement partners as a supplement to a case submitted for prosecution. Evidence or witness testimony may not otherwise be strong enough to warrant prosecution in some cases.
Decide Whether to Prosecute
The role of the DA’s office is to ensure that cases being submitted are appropriate for prosecution and include the needed documents for formal charges. Prosecutors must sometimes decide the appropriateness of a charge and whether to upgrade, downgrade, or decline to prosecute as charged.
Conduct a Grand Jury Investigation
A grand jury is a group of individuals chosen to review evidence a prosecutor presents and decide whether or not an indictment, or formal charge, is appropriate. Certain offenses, by law, require a grand jury indictment. Sometimes the D.A.’s office elects to use it as an investigative tool. In Louisiana, only the most serious criminal violations require a grand jury indictment. The majority of criminal indictments are made through a charging document called a bill of information.
The D.A., with few exceptions, is the legal representative for parish government and all boards and commissions created by state law for Washington and St. Tammany parishes. Early in his administration, D.A. Montgomery fought to protect the home rule charter in St. Tammany Parish, saving taxpayers over $500,000 annually in unnecessary legal fees. He also advises parish boards and commissions, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year through his representation.
Felony Trial Division
The DA’s office charges approximately 3,000 defendants with felonies each year. The felony trial division receives and evaluates these cases, deciding which to resolve through negotiation and which to take to a jury for trial. When cases are taken to trial, these felony prosecutors are tasked with picking jurors, presenting evidence, and arguing their case to the chosen jury.
Collect Child Support
The D.A.’s office has collected more than $100 million over the past five years on behalf of custodial parents and children in the two parishes.
Defendants with a clean criminal history who commit minor infractions are eligible to participate in the DA’s Diversion program. Based on the offense committed and needs of each defendant, a rehabilitation program is created to assist the would-be defendant get back on track. Successful completion of the program allows a defendant to avoid a felony conviction.
The variety offered by the 22nd JDC includes Adult Drug Court, Behavioral Health Court, Sobriety Court, Veterans Court, and Re-Entry Court. The DA’s office acts as a gatekeeper to these programs. Entry requires an evaluation for fitness and a guilty plea to the qualifying offense charged. Depending on the Specialty Court entered into, defendants will go through that Specialty Court’s re-entry program, supervised by the court and its staff as a form of specialized probation. The specialty court process, depending on the specific court, allows defendants the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, avoid jail, and, at times, gain assistance in job placement.