What Are The Changes The New DA Has Made In Regards To New Cases?
There are several “Special Directives” that D.A. Gascon has ordered his Deputy District Attorneys to initiate and impose. They can be summarized as changes to three strikes, prior strikes and prior convictions, special enhancements, special circumstance allegations, gang enhancements and the STEP Act, the death penalty and LWOP (life without parole) decisions, victims’ rights, changes in youth prosecution, changes in misdemeanor filing and prosecution decisions, changes to bail decision making, and releasing persons from state prisons who pose little or no risk to reoffend. The decision to change these policies within the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office is based on research and studies that show that the underlying crimes already have the potential to send people to state prison, and these enhancements are being unfairly applied during either filings or with prosecutions, causing people to enter into plea agreements that they may not otherwise accept. As a result, we have people stuck in the criminal justice system with little chance of erasing such catastrophic consequences in the personal or professional lives. Additionally, the research shows that imposing these enhancements and allegations, imposing stiff cash bail amounts, and filing or prosecution decision making regarding these topics is often skewed against minorities, causing systemic racism throughout the criminal justice system and hence society in general.
Gascon is asking prosecutors to work with defense attorneys to remedy the mistreatment and misapplication of these laws in current pending and past cases. However, some prosecutors are refusing to dismiss enhancement charges, and some judges are even refusing to follow the prosecutors who are moving to strike or dismiss these allegations. This legal battle is raising many questions over who has the authority to dismiss or strike charges or enhancements, and whether the judges are violating the separation of powers where prosecutors are in fact moving to dismiss; it is going to be interesting to see how these cases weave through the system.
There are also massive changes to bail in L.A. County that are being challenged by some of the District Attorneys and judges. The new directive states that anyone who is charged with a misdemeanor or a low-level felony that is not a serious or violent offense shall be presumed to be released on their own recognizance. We will have to see how judges either follow the DA’s directive on this, or if they will impose their bail based on the current existing bail schedule, which is said to be a guide only.
With juvenile court cases, Mr. Gascon and his team have presented evidence showing that young people and young men in particular lack the maturity and awareness or appreciation of the risks they take. Many studies from psychologists support these conclusions – hence, the new order is that regardless of the charge, any pending Transfer Hearings of cases where the DA would previously transfer the case to adult court will be withdrawn. Any juvenile cases already sent to adult court will be sent back to juvenile court, where the goal is rehabilitation rather than punishment.
There are numerous studies that demonstrate the low risks of recidivism among persons who have served lengthy prison terms. The Model Penal Code has suggested that people who have served more than 15 years in state prison are unlikely to reoffend. Consequently, Gascon’s order relative to this is that if a person is 60 years of age or older, at high risk for COVID, or were 17 years of age or younger at the time of the offense and prosecuted as an adult, they can request to be re-sentenced or released.
It would be highly advantageous for persons who have pending cases or prior convictions out of Los Angeles County to consult with an attorney who is educated and involved in these changes, as they can have consequences that will affect them years from now.
For more information on Changes Made By L.A. County’s New DA, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (626) 714-3112 today.