Constitutional Corner

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By NANCY PARR

I am Nancy Parr, and I am your Commonwealth’s Attorney.

This is how I introduce myself when I speak to various groups, clubs and students throughout the City of Chesapeake. The follow-up question is, “Does anyone know what I do?” After a few guesses, I say that I am the Chief Prosecutor in Chesapeake. More guesses. Then, I ask, “Does anyone watch “Law and Order?”  Hands are raised and I respond, “I’m the D.A.” Everyone knows that the D.A. prosecutes people who are charged with felony crimes.

However, as your Commonwealth’s Attorney, my office does much more than prosecute felons. Therefore, I appreciate this opportunity to write about my office.

I am the elected prosecutor for the City of Chesapeake and have been since 2005. There are 120 elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys in Virginia. I am called the Commonwealth’s Attorney because Virginia is a Commonwealth, and I represent the people of this great Commonwealth and City. I am a constitutional officer because this position is defined and established in the Constitution of Virginia. The broad powers of this elected office are defined in the Code of Virginia, as amended.

If you were to research all of the duties, responsibilities and privileges of the Commonwealth’s Attorney as described in the Code, it would take 70 pages to print what you found. It is important to note that these 70 pages would not even include the 948 pages of the Code that are entitled “Crimes and Offenses Generally.”

There are 23 prosecutors in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. According to the staffing standards which are based on the number of felony cases this Office prosecutes, I need 26 prosecutors to prosecute just the felony offenses. However, even though I have three fewer attorneys than are recommended, not only does my Office prosecute over 3,000 felony charges a year, but we also prosecute the misdemeanor cases involving driving under the influence, domestic violence, offenses on school property, animal abuse, and other offenses upon request. Unlike “Law and Order and the other made for television crime dramas, these cases cannot be investigated and prosecuted in a short period of time. Also, those forensic tests on the “CSI” shows are either fake or on a time warp. DNA tests results are not available in an instant or even in an hour. Sometimes it can be three months before we get a test result.

In addition to prosecuting criminal cases, my Office reviews the requests for concealed weapon permits, pursues the forfeiture of assets used in and profits of illegal narcotic cases, and enforces election laws (including cases when a citizen’s registration to vote is denied by the Voter Registrar). Also, I provide a copy of the mandated “State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act” to all City Council appointees. Contained in that Act is the statute which provides that an appointee or an elected official may request an opinion from me as to whether a conflict of interests exists or may exist.

Since I became Commonwealth’s Attorney on March 1, 2005, this Office has become involved in the community to prevent crime, to reduce crime, and to establish relationships with citizens so they will be more likely to cooperate with law enforcement and my prosecutors. In 2006, with the support and assistance of the city, I opened a satellite office in South Norfolk for my Community Prosecution Program. Through this program, my Office has sponsored programs and initiatives (for example, Boys’ Leadership Conferences, Girls’ Empowerment Conferences, Traveling the Road to Success series, Graffiti Be Gone) and participated in City and community events. The programs and initiatives sponsored by my Office have been funded by federal grants and local businesses.

My role as Commonwealth’s Attorney is not merely to convict people charged with criminal offenses. My role is to seek justice for the community. Sometimes justice requires that the unpopular not be charged because, even though the behavior is immoral and/or unethical, it is not criminal. Sometimes justice requires that the popular, well-liked be charged because criminal laws have been violated, victims need closure, others must be deterred from committing the same acts, and funds and property must be restored. As the Commonwealth’s Attorney, my client is society.

It is my privilege and honor to serve the citizens of the City of Chesapeake as your Commonwealth’s Attorney.

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One Response to Constitutional Corner

  1. Victoria Proffitt Reply

    January 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Great job as always, Nancy! Chesapeake is fortunate to have you!

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