Freshly sworn-in George Gascón has taken the reins at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office after getting elected earlier this year. This week, the career law enforcement officer and prosecutor got to work. His first order of business? Sending his office a series of directives to implement sweeping criminal justice reform throughout Los Angeles County.
Among Gascón’s chief priorities were limiting the often disproportionate, harsh, and inhumane penalties permitted by law and handed down by the courts. First and foremost, he directed all prosecutors under his watch to stop seeking the death penalty, effective immediately. Next on Gascon’s list were California’s notorious “three strikes” laws, which have been responsible for exorbitant sentences throughout the state since their inception in 1994. He ordered that prosecutors stop using “strike priors” to increase subsequent sentences, and also ordered an end to the use of sentencing enhancements to increase punishments.
Importantly, he has indicated a desire to apply these principles retroactively. In essence, this means the office will begin identifying cases that have already been sentenced more harshly because of old policies and enhancements, and work to resentence them in light of his new directives. Pending death penalty cases will also be reviewed, with the goal of having the capital punishment removed.
Gascón’s office has also vowed to implement certain policies that affect an individual’s case earlier on in the process. For example, he is seeking to end cash bail for all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. This means his prosecutors should no longer argue that individuals accused of these lower-level offenses must post bail in order to remain out of custody while their cases are pending. In addition, his office will stop prosecuting juveniles as adults, even though the law currently permits it under certain circumstances.
Will the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office make good on all these promises, and will they be effective? Only time will tell. But this is certainly a promising start.
While it is encouraging to see other jurisdictions join the much-needed wave of advocacy for criminal justice reform, San Diego, at least for now, is still sitting on the sidelines. And—sooner rather than later—it will have to decide which side of history it wishes to be on. Your move, San Diego D.A.
If you would like to know how recent criminal justice reform in California may affect your past or present case, give us a call at (619) 295-3555.
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