Despite the Hays County criminal district attorney being an elected position, many are unaware of the true depth of the role and the duties and responsibilities that a district attorney holds. With the district attorney being the highest ranking prosecutor in Hays county, they are bound to have some impact on the members of the community. As such, it is important to understand the work of a district attorney and become familiar with your local district attorney to remain aware of the ways that they may impact you and your loved ones’ lives. Here’s some information on what exactly a district attorney does along with a bit of background on the current Hays county criminal district attorney, Kelly Higgins.
What Does A District Attorney Do?
A county’s district attorney is primarily responsible for representing the state in county-level judicial proceedings. In Texas, this usually includes representing the state in certain criminal prosecutions, presenting cases in front of a grand jury, working with local law enforcement to investigate criminal cases, and representing victims of violence in protective orders. A District attorney’s job is often outside the courtroom and they have input in a variety of decisions that impact the local criminal justice system. District attorneys work closely with criminal evidence and coordinate with local law enforcement to form cases. District attorneys also oversee the work of their office’s assistant district attorneys, who are often responsible for prosecuting the county’s cases. This means that a district attorney has a direct say in when to move forward with a case, what criminal charges are associated with a case, whether a case should be taken to trial or offered a plea, and a case’s possible sentencing period.
Now that we have established a better understanding of what a district attorney does, it is important to gain some insight into the newly elected Hays county criminal district attorney, Kelly Higgins. Given the power of a district attorney, some background into Higgins should provide Hays county residents with comfort in knowing that the district attorney has his constituents’ best interests at heart.
Who is the Hays County Criminal District Attorney?
Kelly Higgins is the newly incumbent Hays county criminal district attorney, elected during the 2022 midterms receiving 53.06% of the votes. Prior to his tenure as district attorney, Higgens worked as a defense attorney in Hays county since 2002. Throughout his career, Higgens has handled thousands of cases and dozens of jury trials all while maintaining a staunch devotion to Constitutional principles. With over 20 years of experience in the Hays county courthouse, Higgins has established a deep understanding of the district attorney’s office and has preestablished working relationships with many of the office’s prosecutors and support staff allowing him to enter the office firing on all cylinders.
Higgens was convinced to run as the sole democrat against the previous Hays county criminal district attorney Wes Mau after learning that Mau was running unopposed. Believing that misguided leadership has caused a backlog in the courts and overcrowding in the jails, Higgins emphasizes fiscal responsibility as second to public safety and trusts that many of the issues plaguing Hays county can be solved by allocating tax dollars toward fighting dangerous and serious offenses rather than petty crimes.
What is Kelly Higgins’ Platform?
Higgins ran on a progressive platform, with major goals for the district attorney’s office to become an example of legal, ethical, and constitutional integrity. Higgins believes that this can be achieved through establishing a mental health court for nonviolent offenses, opposing the use of county resources to prosecute abortion cases, increasing efforts to prevent DWIs, straying away from the death penalty, bringing solutions to the opioid epidemic, and reforming pre-trial intervention agreements.
Higgens is committed to reducing the overcrowding in Hays county jails and has already begun this mission by enforcing public-supported policies. Higgens has agreed to respect San Marcos Proposition A, an ordinance passed in November 2022 that decriminalizes marijuana. This ordinance eliminates criminal charges for possession of any amount of four ounces or less and prohibits police officers from using the smell as probable cause for a search. While Higgens’ predecessor Wes Mau found the ordinance inconsistent with state and federal laws, Higgens has sided with San Marcos voters and has stated that he will not prosecute low-level cannabis offenses.