The main office of the Kern County District Attorney's Office is located in Bakersfield, the county seat. Regional (branch) offices are maintained in other Kern County communities where the Superior Court hears criminal cases. These communities are Delano, Lake Isabella, Lamont, Mojave, Ridgecrest, Shafter and Taft.
Branch office attorneys prosecute all misdemeanor cases originating in their respective offices from filing to conclusion. With the exception of vertical prosecution program cases, they also prosecute all felony cases originating in their respective offices through preliminary hearing, and through trial and sentencing for some offenses.
Central Valley Rural Crime Prevention Program
Since 1999 Kern County has been a participant in the Central Valley Rural Crime Prevention Program. This program is a multi-jurisdictional collaboration of the Agricultural Commissioners, Sheriff's Departments and District Attorney Offices in the eight San Joaquin Valley counties, which are Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties.
The Rural Crime Prevention Program is a state-funded program that is administered by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. It specifically targets offenders who commit oil and agricultural crimes.
Cases within the Rural Crime program are filed in the judicial district where the crime was committed; for that reason supervision of the program is part of Branch Operations.
Requests for criminal prosecutions are submitted to the Kern County District Attorney's Office by law enforcement agencies. The investigation reports in each felony case, and in most misdemeanor cases, submitted for filing must be read by an experienced attorney, and evaluated for sufficiency of the admissible evidence to prove the suspect's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you have filed a report with law enforcement and the agency has completed their investigation and does NOT submit a request to our office for filing, you may submit a walk-in complaint for review.
In the branch offices the assigned attorney is responsible for reviewing all cases submitted for complaint. In the Bakersfield office all complaint requests, except those cases that are part of one of the vertical prosecution programs, are reviewed by attorneys assigned to the Complaint Desk and Calendars section.
Cases meeting the criteria for prosecution are issued, and cases needing further investigation or lacking sufficient evidence are returned to the requesting agency. Felony complaints and misdemeanor complaints are filed in the Superior Court of Kern County.
An attorney from the Complaint Desk and Calendars section appears every court business day at the Criminal Calendar, where defendants are arraigned on new cases, hearings on various motions are conducted, and most defendants who have entered a plea of guilty at the preliminary hearing stage are sentenced. An attorney from this section also appears every day at the Revocation calendar, where defendants on felony probation appear for hearing and sentencing on violations of probation.
Every community in Kern County is affected by crime committed by members of street gangs. There are over 30 such gangs in the county. The Gangs section is responsible for prosecuting all defendants who commit crimes in furtherance of criminal gangs. In many cases these defendants are charged with first degree murder.
The General Felony Section prosecutes all felony offenses that are not handled by one of the vertical prosecution sections, which is the great majority of crimes that are committed each year. Typical cases include vehicular homicides, residential burglaries, grand thefts, and assaults involving great bodily injury or dangerous weapons.
Deputy District Attorneys whose offices are located in the Juvenile Justice Center are assigned to prosecute all juvenile court cases from the issuing stage to conclusion.
The Misdemeanor Section handles all misdemeanor pre-trials and jury trials in the Kern County Superior Court, Metropolitan Division, which is located in Bakersfield. Misdemeanor cases filed in courts other than Bakersfield are handled by the attorneys assigned to the branch office serving that court.
Although most misdemeanor offenses are not as serious as are felony offenses, the Misdemeanor Section is responsible for the prosecution of all driving under the influence cases filed in Bakersfield. Misdemeanor DUI cases are filed in the Metropolitan Division of the Superior Court.
The DA's Office has a special team of prosecutors dedicated to the prosecution of the worst impaired drivers with more than three priors and those that kill or injure. These prosecutors are specially trained in the areas of impairment, collision reconstruction and vehicle safety. They provide training to all Law Enforcement Agencies in the County. Additionally, they are available on-call to assist in the investigation of vehicular homicides. The DA's office receives funding through a grant by the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to support this program.
A preliminary hearing is a contested hearing before a judge at which the prosecution must prove facts to establish probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed the felony offense(s) charged in the complaint. If the judge finds that probable cause has been proved, the defendant(s) in the case will be set for trial on the crime(s) charged. If probable cause is not established, the case will be dismissed, and the defendant released from custody on the dismissed charges.
District Attorneys present the evidence in all preliminary hearings in Metropolitan Division court cases that are not assigned to one of the other sections, such as Gangs or Special Prosecutions. Preliminary hearings in branch courts are handled by the attorneys assigned to those offices.
Four major state prison facilities are located within Kern County: California Correctional Institute, North Kern State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, and Wasco State prison. Further information about these and other state prison facilities can be found on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation webpage.
Crimes committed in state prisons located within Kern County are prosecuted by attorneys assigned to the Prison Crime section. The costs for these prosecutions are fully reimbursed by the State of California.
As the name suggests, the Special Prosecution section is responsible for those cases and/or defendants that are particularly violent, or that require more time to prepare than the typical felony offense. The crimes include sexual assaults, child abuse, and most murder cases, including some gang cases. The Statutory Rape Vertical Prosecution program attorney is included in this section. The Special Prosecution section also handles the filing and prosecution of felony spousal abuse cases in all branches of the Kern County Superior Court.
The investigation and litigation of business regulatory violations, as well as white collar crimes, requires specialized training and experience. The Civil Enforcement & White Collar Crime Section handles a wide variety of civil and criminal cases, including:
- Consumer Protection
- Environmental Protection
- Unfair Business Practices
- Civil Actions
- Regulatory Compliance
- Public Integrity
- Public Integrity
- Public Integrity
- Insurance Fraud
- Real Estate Fraud
- Child Abduction
- Asset Forfeiture
- Public Assistance Fraud
- Major Business Fraud