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Sign, click - done: Woodbury to implement BCA system

That picture of attorneys clutching piles of case files will soon become a thing of the past in Woodbury.

The state's court system has been moving toward a more streamlined, electronic system and the city of Woodbury is joining the paperless revolution.

Woodbury City Council approved a partnership with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) that will allow the majority of case filing to be done online.

Woodbury's prosecuting attorney Wendy Murphy will begin to implement the same method to file gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges.

It's the same process the Washington County Attorney's Office has been using for felony "e-charging," which improves the old process that would go something like this:

Murphy's office receives a police report and generates a complaint based on that.

It then goes back to the Woodbury Public Safety Department to get an officer's signature either by fax or messenger.

The document then has to be faxed or physically sent back to Murphy's office in Stillwater before it has to go to the district court administrator for a judge's signature.

"There are a lot of people touching that complaint," Murphy said, adding, "It certainly can take an hour or two."

The new BCA system will allow her to go into the agency's website and electronically file the charges, probable cause and all the information the court needs.

"And once I'm done with it, I electronically sign it and I electronically send it over to the police department," she said, adding that it will speed up the process to about 10 minutes.

More jurisdictions across the state have been moving toward this new streamlined system that makes it convenient for attorneys to carry around an electronic tablet instead of mounts of paper files.

The city handles about 100 to 150 misdemeanor cases on a monthly basis, Murphy said, but not all of them will be processed via the BCA system.

The majority of them don't require criminal complaints, and a lot are handled with citations.

But about 30 of those will be entered into the new system.

"It's very common for these to be DWIs, theft, domestic assault, maybe damage to property, maybe harassment or stalking crimes," she said. "On the criminal side ... that means that all of what we do, there won't ever be a paper file left."

This process wouldn't necessarily make court appearances happen any quicker, however, it will speed up the act of entering or requesting a court appearance.

Additionally, the process will help eliminate some of the mistakes caused by lack of knowledge in statutorily changes or language updates.

The BCA updates changes to criminal code, statute numbers and language right in the system, Murphy said, which helps when putting together the complaint.

New laws are put in effect every year and oftentimes attorneys may not remember that, she said.

If they make a mistake they would have to go back and start the process all over again.

"It's just a much more streamlined process and it is faster because less people have to physically touch the file, this complaint, before it gets sent to court administration," Murphy said. "We're just literally signing and clicking and signing and clicking and sign and clicking."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.