Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Friday that prosecutors have been directed to take steps to lower the number of people in local jails and area courthouses as part of an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“I have asked my attorneys to consider the health risks in every decision they make,” the county’s top prosecutor said. “I have directed them to consider ways to keep nonviolent felony and misdemeanor offenders out of our jails and courthouses during this pandemic.”
Measures being taken by the District Attorney’s Office include:
— delaying the filing of new cases and re-evaluating pretrial cases to allow nonviolent offenders who do not pose a danger to the community to remain outside the criminal justice system during the national emergency;
— reviewing approximately 2,000 cases with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia and Alternate County Public Defender Erika Anzoategui to determine if the defendants are a risk to public safety or if they can safely be returned to their communities on their own recognizance while awaiting trial;
— directing prosecutors not to request that defendants be remanded for probation or parole violations on nonviolent and non-serious crimes unless the defendant has demonstrated that he or she is a danger to the community;
— considering whether a defendant is considered by health officials to be at high risk of exposure to coronavirus as a factor in setting bail or releasing the defendant on his or her own recognizance;
— recommending that prosecutors use guidelines allowing law enforcement officers to testify about witness statements during preliminary hearings to try to reduce the number of civilian witnesses coming to courthouses during the pandemic;
— expanding the use of a pre-filing diversion program in which office hearings are held instead of criminal cases being filed on specified offenses;
— prosecutors being advised against objecting to court cases being postponed unless it is necessary to prevent a serious case from being dismissed, and being informed to agree with requests for general time waivers and postponements of jury trials for an extended time for defendants who are out of custody;
— prosecutors being directed to temporarily suspend or extend pending due dates for completion of community service, including work done through the California Department of Transportation;
— implementing alternate work schedules for its 2,200 employees, including using technology so attorneys and other staff members can work remotely when possible.
Lacey said she is continuing to work closely with county and court officials to determine how to maintain public safety during the health crisis.
“We have a constitutional duty to serve the public by keeping the residents of Los Angeles County safe from violent crime, even during national emergencies,” the district attorney said. “I want to thank the people in my office for their dedication and cooperation during these unprecedented times.”