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Time to file criminal cases in Seattle is now 3 days, down from 129 days

The City Attorney's Office also said it has made steady progress in easing the 5,000 case backlog the department inherited last year.

SEATTLE — Editor's note: The above video on City Attorney Ann Davison expediting filing decision aired on Feb. 7. 2022.

The City Attorney's Office said in a report published Wednesday morning that it has reduced the time to file a criminal case to three days, down from an average of 129 days over the last five years. 

City Attorney Ann Davison said in a release the median time to make a filing decision in criminal cases took over four months between 2017-2021. In less than one year as city attorney, Davison said her office has made a 98% reduction in filing time.

The improved efficiency in case filing time coincides with Davison's goal to eliminate a 5,000 case backlog by 2023. 

In the latest report, the City Attorney's Office said it has made steady progress in easing the case backlog the department inherited late last year. Assistant City Prosecutors have made 900 case filing decisions on older cases since Davison's plan to address the mounting backlog took effect in February. Her plan to chip away at the case backlog involved making a decision within five business days to file charges or not in new cases. 

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Davison, who was elected to the position in November 2021, said these strides from the City Attorney's Office "improve justice for victims." 

“I am so proud to highlight the incredible work of the dedicated Criminal Division staff in this report," Davison said. "Since taking office, I have been committed to re-centering victims in the public safety system in Seattle and the data in this report proves that we are making significant progress in delivering on this promise. Seattle residents, business owners and community members deserve a criminal justice system that works for them and prioritizes the safety of our communities. My office will continue to lead with data and transparency to ensure that we are making meaningful improvements to public safety in Seattle.”

The 50-page report said the immediate review of incoming reports has led to faster case filing and more victims participating in their cases. According to the report, 27% of domestic violence referrals declined in 2021 due to difficulty contacting victims, who may have lost interest in participating in cases after long delays. That rate has dropped to 8% in the second quarter of 2022, Davison said in the report. 

The City Attorney's Office said it is filing "significantly more cases" compared to this time in 2021 because of improved efficiency. The criminal division has seen a 124% increase in cases filed and the case decline rate for new police criminal referrals has dropped at the same time. Davison said fewer declined cases mean fewer time prosecutors have to waste reviewing police reports where no action was taken. 

Better reporting from the Seattle Police Department and the community has helped boost filing numbers, the office said. 

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