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Commonwealth's Attorney's office overcrowded and drowning in cases
Commonwealth's Attorney Dan Chichester has seen the job change.
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Date published: 10/6/2004
By JODI BIZAR
Dan Chichester, 62, has been commonwealth's attorney since 1971 when it was only a part-time job.
Since then, the job has changed. Not only is the elected position full-time nowadays, but the office is prosecuting an ever-increasing number of criminal cases.
"There's a crime problem that comes with the county's growth," Chichester said, adding that he does not have a big enough staff to handle the increased workload.
"We are probably the most understaffed commonwealth's attorney's office in the state," he said.
And the caseload is likely to increase in the near future, Chichester said.
Chichester, a native of Stafford County and the father of three, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia in 1965. He went on to get his law degree from University of Virginia Law School in 1968.
Prior to that, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant but later promoted to captain in the army. He served in Vietnam and Cambodia before he became Stafford's prosecutor.
Recently, Chichester was interviewed by The Free Lance-Star. Here are some excerpts from that interview.
QWhat's it like being a commonwealth's attorney for one of the nation's fastest-growing counties?
AYou face constant problems from every direction. You have the normal difficulties, allocating personnel to various courtrooms. Then you have the added problem that Stafford is growing too fast. We have outgrown our facilities. We are shoehorned in this office.
QHow has your caseload grown?
AWell, as the population of the county grows, so does the crime rate. When I started in 1971, there were 20,000 people living here. Now we're probably at 110,000. Crime is one of the problems that comes with growth.
QWhat kind of crime is going up?
AThe bad news is we have a greater volume of all kinds of crimes. Drugs play a role. I'm not just talking about drug cases per se. Drugs fuel motives for other crimes, like burglary. The good news, though, is that I've been talking to prosecutors around the country and we're in a lot better shape than most.
QIf the crime rate is going up, are you having to plea bargain more cases?