MONCKS CORNER -- The Berkeley County solicitor's office could lose two prosecutors within the next couple of months, unless the county comes up with an extra $143,651.
Losing the attorneys could mean more inmates sitting in jail, longer waits for families of crime victims seeking justice, and less help for victims of criminal domestic violence, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said.
The Moncks Corner office is losing grants that are supporting two of its seven assistant solicitors. A Department of Justice grant for general prosecution expires at the end of this month. A state Department of Public Safety grant to prosecute criminal domestic violence cases expires at the end of June.
It's another example of those state and federal budget cuts that leave local municipalities scrambling to make up.
The other attorneys would take on the extra work if the office loses a general prosecutor, although they're already handling nearly twice the number of cases they should be, Wilson said. But losing the criminal domestic violence prosecutor would leave victims without an attorney in magistrate's court, she said.
If the county loses the domestic violence prosecutor, the sheriff's office would have to step in and try to make up the difference.
"It's a very valuable position for us, to have her office prosecute CDV cases for our office," Sheriff's Maj. Ricky Driggers said. "It's been a great tool in prosecuting CDV cases, which are very serious cases by nature. We understand she is facing serious budget issues, as all of us are."
Wilson is asking Berkeley County for help.
County Supervisor Dan Davis says he can't make any promises.
"We don't know yet," Davis said of Wilson's request. "If we have dollars, we're certainly going to try to address those critical needs."
Wilson is competing with a lot of other requests, Davis said. The public defender's office is asking for an extra $139,000 to keep from laying off two attorneys or closing the Moncks Corner office for two months this summer. The sheriff's office needs more money to staff a jail expansion.
"There are really a lot of critical needs," Davis said. "But when the money runs out, it runs out."
Davis has been working on his proposed 2011-12 budget and will release it next month.
Even if Davis includes Wilson's request in his proposed budget, council has the option to delete it when members are looking for cuts before final approval.
The potential cuts in the solicitor's office come at a time when the workload has been increasing. The number of new criminal charges the Berkeley County office is handling is up 15 percent over two years ago, Wilson said.
As a result each prosecutor is handling an average of 425 cases, she said.
She said she has not seen a similar increase in new cases in Charleston County. Wilson said she could check her computer records for more details on why she's getting more charges, but it would take a week or two to create and run a program to get the information.
Sometimes a single offense can result in several charges, such as selling drugs near a school with a gun in your waistband.
Driggers, with the sheriff's department, also said it would take some time to run the figures on how much his arrests are up over the last few years.
The Berkeley County cases in the solicitor's office also include arrests in all the towns and cities within the county.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.