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6:49 PM Thu, Sept. 20th

Why does it take so long to decide if there will be criminal charges filed?

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier, file<br>Nate Auvenshine of the Sheriff’s Office works in his patrol vehicle in 2010.

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier, file<br>Nate Auvenshine of the Sheriff’s Office works in his patrol vehicle in 2010.

PRESCOTT- When a woman struck and killed 80-year-old Leroy Berghoefer as he was crossing the street near Campbell Street and Rosser in Prescott on April 20, 2014, she admitted responsibility, saying she was distracted.

It took until December - eight months - for the Yavapai County Attorney's Office to make public its decision not to criminally charge the 26-year-old woman.

On January 13, 2015, Amber Harrington, 23, was riding a bicycle when she was struck and killed by a pickup truck near the intersection of Copper Basin Road and White Spar Road.

There's been no decision if the 36-year-old man driving the truck will be charged.

One reason for a delay in charging in a crime involving a vehicle can generally be traced to the Arizona Department of Public Safety's crime lab, said Prescott Police Sgt. Jason Small.

"Usually, what they're waiting for is toxicology to come back from the DPS crime lab on blood," he said.

The DPS lab does DNA and toxicology testing for many Arizona law enforcement agencies and is backed up, sometimes for weeks or months, Small said.

"It changes, depending on what the backlog at DPS is when your stuff gets there," he said.

At the County Attorney's office, where the charging is done, delays are usually a result of a lack of manpower, Chief Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane said.

"We have a process that deals with daily deadlines," he said. For example, if somebody is arrested Monday night, the clock starts, he has to see a judge by Wednesday, McGrane said. But when a case hasn't resulted in an arrest, "there's no particular hurry" to file charges, "so it kind of sits behind these other cases," he added.

"I know Maricopa (County) used to call them 'basket cases' because they would just sit in the (in) basket," he said.

McGrane said that shortly after Sheila Polk took over as County Attorney, she managed to cut that time down to 30 days, but the office has "slipped a bit."

Other delays may be caused by the prosecutors' need for more evidence or different witness interviews, and those cases are sent back to police for further investigation.

"We've been down an attorney, and sometimes two, in our charging division," McGrane said, noting that they prioritize the cases where people are being held in jail, because "you don't want to charge a case that's not prosecutable and hold them in jail when they shouldn't be."