One of the lesser known aspects of how the Harris County District Attorney's Office works is what goes on behind the scenes at Intake.
Located on the second floor of the CJC, the Intake Division is the place where criminal cases are first filed.
It is staffed by at least three prosecutors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Prosecutors get paid extra money outside of the standard 8 to 5 business day. It's the only possible way that prosecutors can make extra money to supplement their salaries, and the vast majority of them participate in it.
This is how it works:
When a police officer seeks to arrest a suspect on any criminal case (other than a Class C misdemeanor), they must get the charges approved by a prosecutor. A typical example of what the call from a police officer on a case (let's say a DWI for this scenario) goes something like this:
"This is Officer Smith with HPD. Stopped a guy for speeding, failure to maintain a single lane of traffic, and running a stop sign. Smelled a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, so I asked him to perform field sobriety tests. Got all 6 clues on the HGN. 3 clues on the walk and turn. Stumbled during the walk and turn, and swayed during Rhomberg. Took him into custody and down to the station, where he blew a .14."
The prosecutor then will accept or deny charges. Obviously in the above scenario, he or she would accept. The officer will then officially file the DWI charges.
About thirty minutes to an hour later, the Officer will have typed up a brief summary of the case, and entered in the Defendant's identifiers and criminal history. The prosecutor will get the written package on his desk and then "screen" it. They will make a request for a bond that will reflect the level of the offense, combined with the Defendant's criminal history. They give their screened case to the intake secretaries, who will put the case in final form with all the legal paperwork.
Where it gets funny is when a prosecutor doesn't want to take a charge (which believe it or not, happens quite often!). Cops and prosecutors will sometimes end up screaming at each over the phone over whether or not charges should be accepted. Some officers who have charges rejected will have their supervisors call in to argue as well. Nothing will get a prosecutor more fired up than when things happen like that.
In addition to the accepting and screening of charges, the prosecutors on duty at intake are also responsible for doing Grand Jury subpoenas, as well as writing search warrants and arrest (AKA "To Be") warrants for Defendants not in custody. The "To Be's" are usually not that tricky, but search warrants can often times take hours to write.
On some nights, the pace of intake can be relatively slow. But picture the scene on a Friday or Saturday night around, say, 2 a.m. Every last single charge that will be filed has to get the final blessing of a prosecutor. Every line on the phones are blinking. A prosecutor finishes a call and hangs up, and the line immediately starts blinking again.
At times, prosecutors are praying that it will just settle down to "Chaotic" level.
But ultimately, it's a system that speeds up and streamlines the Defendant receiving his or her Due Process rights in a timely manner.
So, if you weren't familiar with it, that's the intake system in a nutshell.
Now, that being said, I now invite all former and current prosecutors to share their favorite intake war stories.
(NOTE: It's also worth noting that the Special Crimes Division also operates as a de facto intake with the more complicated and serious cases. The prosecutors in that Division (headed by Kelly Siegler) are on call 24/7 by cell phone. They get the phone calls in the middle of the night and write warrants too. Just without the overtime pay.)
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