Orange County sheriff reacts after some lower level crime cases dismissed during pandemic

North Carolina

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Central North Carolina district attorneys say the pandemic has led them to prioritize cases with some low level nonviolent misdemeanors being dropped.

CBS 17 reached out to several sheriff’s offices and police departments for reaction. They point out they’re responsible for investigating cases but not deciding which ones to pursue. 

“We made the decision to dismiss the least serious cases and just move forward,” said Jim Woodall, the Orange and Chatham County District Attorney.

Woodall said the dismissed offenses are mostly traffic violations and the lowest level misdemeanors. 

In Orange County alone Woodall said charges have been dropped in 1,500 cases with 750 cases dropped in Chatham County. 

“I know that he and his staff will work diligently and that if they do dismiss a case, it’s not one that’s going to place the community in any further danger,” said Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood.

CBS 17 asked if there was any frustration for investigators — putting time and effort into cases only to have them dismissed.

“No, I think I’ve pretty much characterized how I feel about it,” Blackwood said.

Blackwood said he’s worked with magistrates and judges to promote citations instead of arrests, and where possible pre-trial supervision. 

The case dismissals have also led to changes at the detention center. Fewer inmates means more social distancing. The sheriff said in the past they had 125 inmates, they now have 85. 

“I don’t have anybody to replicate those detention officers and we’ve had a number of them become COVID infected,” Blackwood said. 

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