Immediately after taking the oath of office on December 7, 2020, the new District Attorney of Los Angeles County George Gascon announced a large number of sweeping changes for the county’s criminal justice system. The primary goal of the new directives is to address decades-old inequities in the system, as well as protect defendants in criminal cases against unjust prosecution tactics and prolonged criminal sentences.
Here is an overview of the new criminal justice reform directives in Los Angeles County.
Role of Conviction Integrity Unit
District Attorney Gascon’s first directive addresses the rapidly increasing number of wrongful convictions in LA County. The Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) of Los Angeles County has the power to use strict case review criteria to overturn wrongful convictions and reduce the number of false accusations. The District Attorney’s office wants the CIU to review cases in Los Angeles County that present enough evidence to justify overturning criminal convictions.
A Change in Cash Bail Requirement
As of December 8, 2020, suspects charged with a misdemeanor, a non-serious felony, or a non-violent felony do not have to put up cash bail for pre-trial release from jail. The directive eliminates the policy of requiring criminal suspects to follow conditions for a release from jail before the start of a trial. Gascon said in a press conference that defendants can only face cash bail conditions to ensure they appear on the scheduled court dates.
No More Death Penalty Cases
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has ended the practice of seeking the death penalty. This directive applies to pending cases in which the District Attorney’s Office has not yet filed the paperwork seeking the death penalty. According to a memo sent out in the District Attorney’s Office, the death penalty does not deter criminals and it is applied to a disproportionate number of non-Caucasians
Misdemeanors: Help Instead of Incarceration
Gascon emphasized the high cost of prosecuting misdemeanor cases and that the result of convictions leads many defendants down a road of becoming a career criminal. Starting on December 8, 2020, the LA County District Attorney’s Office plans to either dismiss or decline prosecuting misdemeanor cases.
The following are some of the misdemeanor crimes that fall under the new prosecutorial guidelines:
- Driving on an invalid or suspended license
- Public intoxication
- Drug possession
- Disturbing the peace
- Resisting arrest
- Under the influence of a controlled substance
New Resentencing Guidelines
Perhaps the most important criminal justice reform directive issued by District Attorney Gascon concerns new resentencing guidelines. The new directive will overhaul policies that the District Attorney’s Office feels are seriously outdated. Resentencing under the new guidelines applies to both pending criminal cases and cases that have not reached a decision. The District Attorney’s Office also plans to consider resentencing prisoners that have served a minimum sentence of 15 years.
The new directives issued on December 8, 2020 include a measure that grants the Bureau of Victim Service (BVS) more power to help crime victims heal by providing additional support and services. Advocates for crime victims working at the BVS should contact victims within 24 hours of receiving notification of a criminal offense. BVS advocates provide support and services not only for crime victims, but also for family members without factoring in immigration status.
Learn More About the New Directives
The comprehensive criminal justice reform directives will impact a large number of our clients. We encourage current and potential clients to contact our law firm to learn more about how one or more of the directives affect their unique cases. You can reach criminal defense attorney Patrick Aguirre toll-free at 800-572-1252 or 562-904-4337. We also provide a short online form for contact purposes as well.