New D.A.'s Top 5 First-Year Priorities

SFGate has a January 8 article laying out five things Chesa Boudin wants to change during his first year in office. Here are those priorities, and some thoughts on them:

1. Ending cash bail

In an interview with SFGATE, Boudin named ending money bail as his first priority. "I want to move away from a wealth-based system and move to a risk-based system," he said. "People should be held before trial if they are too dangerous to be released, not too poor.

"I can prohibit my staff from ever asking a judge to put a price tag on freedom."

  I think judges can still require defendants to post bail if they want to, but the D.A. not requesting them to impose this burden should at least reduce the practice. It would be great to see some protests against judges.

2. Curb car break-ins with tech

Boudin wants to tackle the epidemic of car break-ins with a three-pronged approach: prevention, deterrence and victim services. He said he wants to partner with tech companies to find innovative ways to detect and prevent break-ins, and use his staff at the DA's office to build cases around serial perpetrators.

  Whether police focus on trying to make arrests of auto burglary suspects (as opposed to drug dealers, sex workers, etc.) and sending cases to the D.A..'s office, or whether the cops (who by and large are not his biggest fans) try to sabotage his agenda by turning more of a blind eye to certain crimes in the hopes it will undermine his popularity, will be key.

3. Slashing the city's 5,500 open cases

Boudin estimates the city has more than 5,500 open cases right now — over 1,000 of those are more than two years old, he says.

"If you think about what that means from the administration of justice perspective, the saying goes, 'justice delayed is justice denied.' We have individual people who were victimized in these cases, individual police officers or civilian witnesses who may get subpoenaed repeatedly, we have people sitting in jail waiting for a resolution to their case."

Boudin plans to direct his team to go through the massive pile of open cases and take them to trial, reach plea agreements, or drop them altogether.

"At a certain point as a DA, you have to do an analysis if there are any witnesses around that can prove your case. And if not, it's in the interest of justice to dismiss those cases."

  I'm not sure how big a backlog of cases is "normal", but 5,500 sounds like a huge number. It really is inexcusable for people to have to wait months or years with unprosecuted charges hanging over their heads, so I strongly support this priority.

4. Reform status enhancements

A status enhancement to an convicted criminal's sentence is increased due to either the seriousness of the crime or because of the person's previous criminal record. California's "Three Strikes Law" is one example. Status enhancements are under the district attorney's discretion, and Boudin thinks the practice is one culprit for over-sentencing.

"It's making someone face a harsher sentence for something they did and were punished for years ago," he said. "I want to move immediately to a system where we don’t punish people for who they are, but hold them accountable for what they’ve done."

  Boudin does say he wants to go after "serial perpetrators" of auto burglaries, so it doesn't sound like he wants to completely ignore a person's criminal history. I think he's saying he thinks it's okay for past history to be a factor in decisions of whether to prosecute, but not in sentencing those found guilty. That seems like a reasonable balance to this Libertarian.

5. Test every rape kit

Boudin campaigned on the promise to "prosecute sex crimes effectively and equitably." The first concrete step in doing that, he says, is to ensure SFPD has tested every rape kit in its possession and ensuring the results are entered into the national database.

  Given present out-of-control government surveillance, any talk of putting any kind of data in a "national database" makes me wary. But if doing so is ever justified, it might be in circumstances like this. Certainly testing rape kits promptly is a no-brainer, and it's outrageous this hasn't been the practice.

– Quoted material from the article at

Love & Liberty,

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