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Bill to limit criminal justice reform program leaves prosecutors with an ‘ax’ and a ‘hammer,’ top lawyers say

HB257′s sponsor acknowledged the invoice is aimed at Utah County Lawyer David Leavitt, an outspoken proponent of pre-submitting diversion packages.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah County Attorney David Leavitt joined Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill at a information convention on Sept. 14, 2021. Equally elected prosecutors oppose a new bill that would restrict their potential to work pre-filing diversion programs within their workplaces.

When lawmakers propose prison justice reform endeavours, they frequently refer to a bill’s potential to include yet another software in a prosecutors’ metaphorical “toolbox” they use to assure justice.

But some county attorneys say a new piece of legislation, HB257, will pick the resources for them: A hammer and an ax.

“What 257 does is to say, as prosecutors, ‘You can only have an ax to chop people’s limbs off and only have a hammer to crush individuals with,’ ” explained Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

The invoice, sponsored by Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, would place limits on pre-submitting diversion plans, a software typically applied by prosecutors to retain people today accused of minor crimes out of the felony justice process and connected to resources that could assist them.

It would prohibit prosecutors from employing community cash for these programs and would call for them to get authorization from their nearby sheriff and police chiefs right before applying it.

Some elected prosecutors in Utah say this is an effort to strip them of their electrical power and that it is aimed at a single county legal professional in individual.

“It’s clearly a invoice targeting me,” claimed Utah County Legal professional David Leavitt.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, verified as a great deal.

“I will admit I have quite a few concerns with the way my Utah County prosecutor business office is likely right now,” McKell explained. “There’s no concern.”

Leavitt has been outspoken about his initiatives to reform the legal justice procedure given that he was elected in 2019. His policy alterations have satisfied some resistance, which includes from former lawyers in his workplace.

A single of the initial reform endeavours Leavitt carried out was a pre-submitting diversion method. The diversion system necessitates contributors to enter into an settlement with his business office that if they finish community service, lifetime courses or drug treatment, prosecutors will not file prices from them. It is not supposed for violent offenders or serious crimes, but for folks who are accused of reduced-level offenses who could be helped as a substitute of punished.

Salt Lake County Lawyer Sim Gill operates a similar plan.

“Meaningful and accountable reforms do not need to have to occur article-submitting,” Gill mentioned. “It can materialize pre-submitting. In particular when some of the collateral repercussions can be disproportionate.”

Gill reported his plan has been a success. It has been in put just about two years, and had 253 prosperous graduates. There ended up 32 individuals who did not full the software. He reported those people who went by means of the method had a recidivism price of 16%, when 94% of unsuccessful individuals went on to commit new crimes.

The 3 elected prosecutors stated that they imagine HB257 is an attack on their discretion to come to a decision what to do in the courtroom. They said they had been not consulted about the laws till following the monthly bill became general public.

“I respect the Legislature’s suitable to make law,” Leavitt reported. “But I definitely insist as a member of the executive department of the govt to have my prosecutorial discretion. They can pass any law they want to but it is not likely to change what I do.”

A substitute invoice is predicted soon, McKell claimed, to tackle the county attorneys’ worries that the laws went far too far.

Christofferson reported he consulted with a former prosecutor when drafting the monthly bill with the objective to “standardize” pre-submitting diversion applications. He included there was not a distinct challenge within the legal justice technique he was striving to tackle.

“What I’m hoping to do is say let’s establish a framework so that not all people is undertaking a unique policy,” he claimed.

Leavitt and Rawlings equally feel that a previous Utah County prosecutor labored with Christofferson on the monthly bill.

The Davis County Attorney reported he felt Christofferson was misled.

“It’s obviously specific at what’s going on in Utah County,” Rawlings explained. “We really don’t want to see the means to have a software taken just due to the fact any person does not like what’s going on in a distinct county.”