There’s no question that our jails and prisons are over-crowded. There are a number of reasons for this reality. The war on drugs continues to be waged in our communities, sending low level offenders behind bars, and excessive bail amounts leave poor and middle-class individuals unable to get out before they have their day in court. But there are steps being taken to try to reduce the jail population, and those efforts have caused some to question whether certain low-level crimes, like those pertaining to theft, should even be charged at all.
Addressing low-level crimes
Back in 2019, the Dallas County District Attorney announced that he would no longer prosecute theft offenses involving goods under $750 in value when the theft was out of necessity. On a human level, this makes sense. According to the prosecutor, the individuals who commit these crimes are hungry and in a dire financial predicament. Sending them to jail does nothing but prolong their predicament and actually make it worse.
Many officials, including the Governor, have criticized the move, even going so far as to accuse the prosecutor of abandoning the law. But the truth of the matter is that prosecutors have discretion to bring whatever cases they want, and prosecutors across the country are utilizing that power to try to reform a system that they say is broken. In fact, similar decisions to forego charging low-level theft crimes have been made across the country. Some are choosing to forego formal charges altogether while other are merely issuing citations.
Will this policy shift be effective?
How much of a foothold this movement obtains depends a lot on whether it’s effective. Unfortunately, that statistic is a little hard to measure. To start, how do you measure success? Is it in reduced theft cases? Reduced jail populations? The truth is that these reforms are so new that their effectiveness is unknown at this time, and it may not be known for some time to come.
Law enforcement’s reaction
Many law enforcement agencies feel that these reforms are belittling their work and making them look bad for performing the job they were hired to perform. But that isn’t the case. Police officers have been instructed to continue to make arrests, and these reforms effect far fewer cases than many people think. This is because the focus of the reforms is on necessity. Therefore, the specific facts and the human element underlying each case is carefully analyzed to determine if criminal charges are appropriate.
Protecting yourself against theft charges
There’s no question that theft charges are going to continue to be made. However, if you find yourself accused of a theft crime, you might have several different ways to approach your case. You might be appeal to appeal to a prosecutor’s humanity by showing that the theft was made out of necessity. Alternatively, if you struggle an addiction or mental health problems, then you might be able to negotiate some sort of resolution that focuses on treatment rather than retribution. There’s always the option to just fight the charges, too, and seek an acquittal.
What’s important to remember is that every criminal defense case is different. That’s why it’s important that you receive the individualize approach that you need and deserve. Experienced legal teams, like the one at our firm, stand ready to help you develop a custom-tailored approach that works for you. You should play an active role in your defense, so your attorney should fully discuss your options and help you make the decision that is best for you. Only then can you move past this part of your life and focus on the road ahead.