who gets charged with a crime
After arrest, police present the case to one of the DA’s prosecutors, who decides whether to prosecute and what charges to bring. Historically DAs have over-prosecuted, raising incarceration rates.
the seVERITY of a criminal charge
DAs determine whether to charge crimes as violations, misdemeanors (punishable up to one year in jail), and felonies (serious criminal offenses punishable by years in state prison). Historically, DAs have at times overcharged Defendants to pressure them into making pleas.
what TO OFFER in a plea bargain
90% of criminal cases do not end up in jury trials. In plea bargains, the prosecutor makes an agreement to ease or drop charges, and reduce punishment in exchange for a guilty plea by the defendant. Plea ‘bargains’ give the DA inordinate power, and are rife with abuse.
WHETHER TO SEEK BAIL AND DETAIN
DAs can ask judges to set bail for individuals before trial or conviction. Pre-trial incarceration penalizes the poor who end up detained for weeks or months before due process. Additional fees follow them through the criminal justice system: before, during, and after conviction.
WHO GETS ACCESS TO TREATMENT VS JAIL
‘Tough on Crime’ DAs too often choose to incarcerate the vulnerable: people with addictions or mental illness, veterans, and at–risk youth.
A smarter DA will use diversion to offer people in crisis rehabilitation programs designed to help them rather than locking them up.