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'Errors' led Maricopa County Attorney's Office to drop 180 cases

Allister Adel
Posted at 5:57 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 16:11:09-04

PHOENIX — Maricopa County prosecutors have dropped 180 criminal cases because charges were not filed before the statute of limitation expired.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office sent ABC15 a statement confirming the unfiled cases were misdemeanors from 2020. Arizona law requires that charges in misdemeanor cases, such as DUI and assault, can only be filed within one year of the crime occurring.

According to MCAO, prosecutors took steps to notify law enforcement agencies and victims about what happened and resources were redirected to ensure the errors don't happen again.

ABC15 previously reported on a shortage of prosecutors, ethical concerns about criminal charges against protesters, County Attorney Allister Adel's stint in rehab last year, and her own division chiefs' concerns that she is unable to effectively lead the office.

Many of the unfiled cases were submitted by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

"[DPS] Colonel Silbert and I had a direct conversation with the County Attorney and expressed our concerns in earnest regarding these cases," Sheriff Paul Penzone said in a statement. "Our highest priority is for victims, who due to these circumstances will not receive justice."

Penzone added there must be "integrity and transparency in communication" with the victims impacted.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office reviews about 48,000 submitted cases a year. It is the third-largest public prosecutorial agency in the United States.

Penzone said he and Colonel Silbert also asked the County Attorney to address the issue of “furthers,” which involves sending cases back to police agencies for additional investigation. Penzone said, "this practice has been utilized to quell the MCAO caseload and subsequently slowed and been a detriment to criminal justice procedures and criminal investigations."

Adel was appointed county attorney in October 2019 after Bill Montgomery left to become an Arizona Supreme Court justice. She was subsequently elected in 2020.