What the District Attorney Should Not Say to the Media

I saw this article originally on the opinionated Cassy Fiano’s blog. Blogger The Electric Lawyer also commented on the story.

In perhaps the most questionable public relations move of the week, Contra Costa (CA) County District Attorney told members of the media this about policy changes in his office:

Misdemeanors such as assaults, thefts and burglaries will no longer be prosecuted in Contra Costa County because of budget cuts, the county's top prosecutor said Tuesday.

District Attorney Robert Kochly also said that beginning May 4, his office will no longer prosecute felony drug cases involving smaller amounts of narcotics. That means anyone caught with less than a gram of methamphetamine or cocaine, less than 0.5 grams of heroin and fewer than five pills of ecstasy, OxyContin or Vicodin won't be charged.

People who are suspected of misdemeanor drug crimes, break minor traffic laws, shoplift, trespass or commit misdemeanor vandalism will also be in the clear. Those crimes won't be prosecuted, either.

"We had to make very, very difficult choices, and we had to try to prioritize things. There are no good choices to be made here," said Kochly, a 35-year veteran prosecutor. "It's trying to choose the lesser of certain evils in deciding what we can and cannot do…"
Say what?

I can understand having to alter prosecution strategies to address budget shortfalls, but providing a list to the public of the offenses that will no longer be criminally prosecuted—yikes!

A better strategy would have been to provide a more generalized statement to media (if asked). He could then meet with other managers in the criminal justice system and let them know that due to funding problems, the DA’s office will not be able to prosecute “every” misdemeanor and leave each case open for review.

From a policing perspectives, I have a feeling innovative officers will find charges that the DA’s office still pursues and make sure that defendant still gets cited appropriately—like a guy who is living in an abandoned building may not be prosecuted for trespassing or burglary, but he may be charged with an equivalent littering charge (he damaged the environment—it is California you know).

For retail shop owners, I would suggest just moving to another county or perhaps following the hoards of people exiting the Golden State and setup in a new community—as allowing shoplifters to proceed without any possibility of prosecution would lead to lots of closed retail businesses.


Christopher said...

This is just incredible and sickens me.

Slamdunk said...

Yeah, I give them five weeks after the new policy is implemented before citizens persuade the DA's office to change things back accordingly.

Jen said...

I heard about this. I'm originally from California and this is really scary. Unbelievable that the actual crimes would be posted in the media. So nice that the criminals can pick and choose what they want to get away with.

mappchik said...

Hey, look on the bright side. Think of the announcement as career counseling. After all, aren't there an awful lot of prisoners being released early to alleviate tight budgets and overcrowding? The DA and the local press are just giving them the tools to avoid another conviction.

Oz Girl said...

Yikes, I agree with you. How ridiculous that they actually publicized the list of offenses they will not prosecute. An open door to those criminals to go ahead and practice their craft because now there will be no recriminations!

Erin said...

Oh man. I'll bet the LEOs are LOVING that guy right now.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the criminals find out eventually anyway. Even if they hadn't publicized the list the public defender and private defense attorney's would figure it out within a few weeks. Once one criminal gets away with something they just spread the word.

But, it does seem like bad press for the DA, but then again he's just responding to his board of supervisors request to cut his budget. So by publicizing a list it causes a public outcry, people show up to council meetings and complain and the DA gets more funding.

I see this as more of a politcal manuever then an attempt to give criminals free reign on the street.