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Why does the U.S. Attorney’s Office drop so many cases?

As any seasoned Law & Order junkie knows, not every arrest leads to trials, plea deals, and hard time. But don’t let that suggest that U.S. Attorney Ron Machen isn’t the hardest working man in law enforcement, because in D.C’s criminal justice system, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting not just federal crimes, but nearly every local offense, too. The work adds up. “We handle more than 20,000 cases a year, more than any other U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country,” Machen’s spokesman Bill Miller says. The office’s Superior Court division, with about 160 lawyers handling District cases, is responsible for sifting through an entire city’s dark side. “Some matters are not prosecuted or are later dismissed by the government for lack of evidence,” Miller says. Some of those cases go back to the Metropolitan Police Department with suggestions on how to build a case worthy of filing charges. But, Miller adds, many more dismissals go to nonviolent misdemeanor offenders who enter community service and criminal diversion programs.