New DA, New Rules

Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz was clear with his message Thursday.

He said the old inmate intake system is broken, jails are crowded and cases are not moving along as they should in Cameron County.

The consequence, he said, is that some inmates that should be behind bars are getting released on technicalities. Saenz is hoping to change that by asking first responders throughout the county to change the way they arrest and file cases.

"With the system (there was) before, (an officer) would come in and would simply give (the) cases to a civilian who would log them in and that's it, Saenz said. It would be distributed to seven or eight different lawyers for intake, and you know when you do something like that|you lose control." Saenz is now putting law enforcement agencies on a 10-day case filing period.

Following an arrest, officers will have 10 days to fill out the proper paperwork and gather the necessary evidence in order to submit a complete case file to the district attorney's office. There will be some exceptions, but for now 10 days is the goal.

Otherwise, Saenz said, cases will continue stalling the court systems and jails will continue to over flow.

"We'll sit there with you and go over each case, and at the end of the discussion they'll say, ~you know what this case is ready and I TMm receiving it, TM or they're going to tell you, ~I need in this case the statements, the medicals records, I need the photographs. TM" A fax line has also been set-up for officers so that they can send inmate information to the district attorney TMs office upon arrest.

That's because Saenz said currently, he doesn TMt know who is in the jails, but hopes this requirement will help his office keep track of inmates. Other district attorney officials said this new intake system will keep officers accountable to their office and also to the citizens they serve.

"In the long run, once we get everything (going) I guarantee you it will be a lot smoother and you will be able to provide a better service for the people you serve, Saenz said, and I TMll be able to come in to the courtrooms and get better verdicts.