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Sheriff freed from some transports

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By David Giuliani

The San Miguel County Sheriff's Department has been freed of one of its bigger responsibilities.

For years, sheriff’s deputies have taken arrested juveniles to youth jails in other counties for both the Las Vegas and state police. However, because of a July opinion from the state’s attorney general’s office, the department no longer transports just-arrested youths.

This opinion doesn’t apply to juveniles who need to be taken to facilities as the result of judges’ orders; the sheriff is still legally required to transport them in such situations.

San Miguel County doesn’t have a lockup for youths, so it has to take them to other counties.

The city police had argued for having the sheriff continue taking juveniles, but the sheriff insisted it didn’t have to. District Attorney Richard Flores had sought the opinion from the attorney general.

“We agree entirely with the attorney general’s opinion,” County Attorney Jesus Lopez said in a statement. “It is consistent with both the county’s longtime interpretation of the law and the orderly transportation of detainees. The opinion protects against straining or overtaxing any one law enforcement agency.”

The opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General Sally Malave, pointed to a state law that mandates that “a person taking a child into custody shall … deliver the child to a place of detention as provided (under statute).”

“The plain language of this statute is unambiguous. It places the responsibility of transporting a juvenile who is taken into custody and meets the criteria for detention squarely on the shoulders of the arresting officer,” Malave wrote.

She further opined that the county is responsible for paying the costs associated with detaining and transporting juveniles when judges order their transfers.

Police Chief Gary Gold said the opinion hasn’t had a major impact on his department so far, although he said the new responsibility means taking officers off the streets.

He said the Sheriff’s Department has worked well with his agency.

“If they’re available, they’ll still take (the juveniles),” the chief said.

District Attorney Richard Flores also said he didn’t expect the AG’s opinion to have much impact.

“The law has changed wherein the thought toward juveniles is to get away from jail and detention; thus, you just don’t have many situations where law enforcement is having to transport juveniles to other jurisdictions. Don’t get me wrong; it doesn’t mean it never happens, it just happens a lot less,” Flores said in a statement.