Prosecutors in California do have discretion during the performance of their duties. Discretion sometimes allows a prosecutor to negotiate a plea bargain agreement or take a case to trial. In Santa Clara County, the District Attorney’s Office decided to use its discretion and no longer seek the death penalty.
The district attorney now opts to institute a series of reforms that seek to address systematic racism and other problems with the justice system. Among those reforms is the decision to cease seeking the death penalty in criminal cases.
Public outcry, in part, led to the decision. The reforms also do not stop with the cessation of seeking the death penalty; other changes include downgrading some misdemeanors to infractions. In California, an infraction conviction is much less severe than a misdemeanor. The way to punish an infraction involves levying a fine. Infractions do not come with potential jail time in the Golden State.
The DA’s plans are part of a reform initiative known as “Bend the Arc.” Many changes are coming forth from this initiative. One change involves a decision to cease seeking fees and fines from indigent defendants. Also, once someone completes probation, criminal records automatically undergo expungement. Automating the process eradicates a previously costly legal process to procure expungements.
The decision on the reforms came after two months of review and deliberation. Feedback from criminal justice reformers and others led to the decisions. According to reports, the DA once supported the death penalty, but he now feels different as he sees too many examples of racial injustice and fundamental unfairness.
A criminal defense attorney may help a client facing misdemeanor or felony charges. The attorney may look closely to see if an employee’s rights were violated or evidenced was procured improperly. A defense attorney may also review plea agreement offers and advise their client regarding whether to accept a plea bargain.