The Civil Division's primary responsibilities include handling all misdemeanor and felony bond forfeitures, asset forfeiture cases, public information requests, and mental health commitment hearings. The Civil Division litigates matters involving forfeiture of gambling proceeds, out-of-state subpoena requests, environmental crimes, and health authority cases and handles open records/open meetings complaints. The Civil Division also writes legal opinions for county departments or officials upon request, deals with fraudulent liens filed with the District Clerk, and sits as the Criminal District Attorney's representative on the Collin County Bail Bond Board.
The attorneys in the Civil Division initiate bond forfeiture filings for both felony and misdemeanor cases and track bond forfeiture cases until the final judgment has been paid. The goal of this bond forfeiture effort is two-fold: (1) to see that fugitive defendants are arrested and brought to justice; and (2) to obtain the money due for each bond forfeiture in order to recoup for Collin County the costs involved when criminal defendants fail to show up for their court date. There are, on average, in excess of 300 bond forfeiture cases pending in Collin County at any given time.
Asset forfeiture cases are filed with the Civil Division when a law enforcement officer seizes property (which includes currency, vehicles, real estate, or personal property) from an individual who has used or intended to use that property to commit a criminal offense, or when the property is proceeds from a criminal offense or was acquired with proceeds from a criminal offense. The goal is to prevent criminals from being able to enjoy the fruits of their criminal activity and to deprive them of the means of committing future crimes.
Asset forfeiture cases, although arising out of a criminal offense, are civil in nature and governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. These cases involve filing an original petition, filing and answering discovery motions, preparing cases for trial, and disposing of the cases by settlement or trial. Asset forfeiture proceeds are shared by law enforcement agencies and the Collin County Criminal District Attorney's Office, and they may then be used solely for law enforcement purposes.
Public information requests and complaints do not carry a regular docket but must be responded to within a statutorily mandated deadline. When responding to a Public Information Act request, the goal of the Collin County Criminal District Attorney's Office is to provide the relevant public information as quickly as possible, while at the same time protecting privileged documents from public disclosure that would interfere with the investigation or prosecution of criminal cases.
Section 552.108 of the Texas Government Code contains what is generally referred to as the "law enforcement exception" to the release of certain public records. This exception allows a governmental body to withhold four types of information:
1. Information If Released Would Affect Investigation or Prosecution: Information that is held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that, if disclosed, would interfere with the law enforcement agency or prosecutor's ability to detect, investigate or prosecute a crime;
2. Information About Certain Prosecutions: Information that deals with the prosecution of crimes that did not result in a conviction or a deferred adjudication;
3. Threats Against Peace Officers: Information that deals with threats against peace officers collected or disseminated under section 411.048 of the Government Code; or
4. Information Prepared by Prosecutors: Information that is prepared by a prosecutor in anticipation of, or in the course of preparing for criminal litigation; or that reflects the mental impressions or legal reasoning of the prosecutor.
The Civil Division also handles the mental health commitment hearings that are conducted twice a week in the Collin County Probate Court. The cases are generated when an application is presented to the Probate Court alleging that a person, due to mental illness, is a danger to himself or others. If an order is then issued to take that person into protective custody detention, he or she is entitled to a probable cause hearing within 72 hours of being taken into custody. The Criminal District Attorney's role at the mental health commitment hearing is to represent the interest of the State of Texas as it relates to the continued detention of the person in custody.
Debbie Harrison, Chief of Civil Division.
Debbie Harrison – Ext. 4326; email@example.com
Tiffany Gainer graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2004. She received her Juris Doctorate in 2007 from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, where she was an award-winning member of the National Trial Team. A native of Buffalo, New York, Ms. Gainer joined the Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in 2008 and now serves as a chief misdemeanor prosecutor.
Connie Rader worked twenty-five years in the private sector before joining the Collin County Criminal District Attorney's Office in February 2000. Ms. Rader began in the Intake Section of the Grand Jury/Intake Division before becoming a legal secretary in the Misdemeanor Trial Division. Ms. Rader served as a Legal II Secretary for the 366th and 401st District Courts felony trial teams for four years before joining the Civil Division in 2006.
Coline Berkley-Wood joined the Collin County Criminal District Attorney's Office in February 2006 as a secretary in the Intake Section of the Grand Jury/Intake Division. In June 2006, she was promoted to legal secretary and was assigned to the trial teams for County Court at Law Nos. 2 and 5. In August 2006, Ms. Berkley-Wood joined the Civil Division. Additionally, Ms. Berkley-Wood assists the Appellate Division in handling non-disclosures filed in misdemeanor cases. Prior to working in the District Attorney's Office, she was employed for eight years at Texas Instruments. She frequently volunteers for numerous community service and school projects in her community.