About the Office
The State of Florida is divided into 20 Judicial Circuits and the State Constitution provides that there be an elected State Attorney in each circuit. The State Attorney’s authority is derived from the State Constitution and the Florida Statutes. The State Attorney’s primary duty is to represent the State of Florida in all suits, be they criminal or civil, in which the State is a party. The State Attorney is charged with the duty of faithfully executing and enforcing the laws of the State of Florida.
Bruce Colton is the State Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit. A 1972 graduate of the University of Florida College of Law, he worked as an Assistant State Attorney from 1974 until becoming State Attorney in 1985.
The 19th Circuit
The 19th Judicial Circuit is located on the East Coast of Florida approximately midway between Miami and Orlando. Martin, Saint Lucie, and Indian River Counties are also know as “The Treasure Coast”, a name derived from the gold and silver contained on a fleet of Spanish ships which sunk just off the coast while traveling back to Spain from the “New World”. Okeechobee County is located on the northeastern shore of the largest fresh water lake within the United States and is known for its fishing and the area’s dairy farms.
The New York Mets spring training facility is located in Saint Lucie County and has a minor league team which plays there throughout the summer.
While the area has grown substantially in the last few years, strict zoning and growth control ordinances prevent the area from developing urban sprawl and high rise jungles that have taken over other areas of the state.
The State Attorney has full time offices in each of the four counties. In Indian River, Martin, and Okeechobee Counties, the State Attorney’s Offices are located in modern courthouse facilities. In Saint Lucie County the office is a stand-alone facility within walking distance of the courthouse. Administrative offices for the Circuit are located in the Saint Lucie County office.
The Legal Division
There are approximately 55 Assistant State Attorneys assigned primarily to the Juvenile, Misdemeanor and Felony Divisions of each office. In addition, 5 attorneys are assigned to the Major Crimes, the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse, and the Economic Crimes Divisions. The Assistant State Attorneys are supported by approximately 60 support staff comprised of paralegals, legal secretaries, data specialists, and clerks.
Victim / Witness Division
Advocates are available on a 24 hour basis to respond to requests from law enforcement agencies to which a sexual assault victim has reported a crime. The Advocate provides comfort, support and assistance to the victim throughout the law enforcement investigation. When the case is referred for prosecution, the Advocate serves as a liaison for the victim throughout the Criminal Justice System. The Advocate assists the prosecutor in keeping the victim informed about the status of the case and helps the victim give input to the prosecutor.
Advocates are also assigned to each Prosecution Division in the State Attorney’s Office. The Advocate ensures:
- That victims are kept informed about the status of their case.
- That victims are allowed to give input and express how the crime has affected their lives.
- That victims are at all court hearings if they wish to attend.
Other services include assistance in filing Crime Compensation forms, transportation to court hearings, referrals to appropriate community resources and anything which might make a victim more comfortable.
The State Attorney’s Office offers support and assistance to witnesses in criminal cases. Frequently this involves providing travel arrangements for out of area witnesses and coordinating their schedules with the Court Hearings. Witnesses have special needs which might included needing help explaining to employers the importance of their participation in the Court process.
The State Attorney’s Office relies on the municipal, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies within the Circuit to investigate most of the crimes which occur in the area. In addition though, the State Attorney’s Office also conducts investigations.
The Investigative Division is comprised of state certified law enforcement officers. Their functions include working with other law enforcement agencies on joint investigations and locating and securing witnesses and evidence for trials. They also conduct independent investigations of cases involving circuit-wide implications as well as political corruption and complex white collar and fraud cases.
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