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December 28, 2013

DA to create procedural guide

MALONE — Franklin County is using drug-related assets to create a comprehensive reference manual that prosecutors can use to run their offices more efficiently.

District Attorney Derek Champagne said it will bolster his operation and could help DAs in the other 32 counties in New York state with populations less than 100,000 people.

ASSET-SEIZURE FUNDS

The DA recently told legislators he has about $21,000 in an asset-seizure account from those arrested on misdemeanor drug charges.

His office obtained these powers under a local law adopted by the County Legislature in 2006.

The DA said investigators and law enforcement may develop information on a suspect or pull someone over who allegedly has the ingredients to make crystal methamphetamine, for example.

Possession of those materials doesn’t always rise to felony level, but if prosecutors can prove the suspect is engaged in narcotics trafficking, their vehicle or other related assets can be seized under the local law, Champagne said.

Once the court case is finished, the seized items are sold, and the DA’s Office typically receives a portion which is what will be used to fund it.

“Drug dealers are paying for it, so why not?” he said.

VETERAN DA

Champagne has wanted an office handbook for years and even has tossed a few procedurals and other materials in some boxes to get a start, but he said hasn’t had time or staff to devote to it.

It has become more of a priority to him now because, he said, he is one of the longer-serving DAs in the state and wants to help newly elected DAs.

He said 50 of the state’s 62 district attorneys who were in office when he was elected 12 years ago are no longer serving.

The handbook could be used to educate staff on its duties and could be a resource for an incoming DA on procedures like how to conduct a grand jury, office management, handling investigations, work shifts and allocation of court assignments.

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