Non-prosecution of low-level crimes dropped in Tampa

This combination of photos from Thursday, August 4, 2022 shows Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, left, and Hillsborough County State's Attorney Andrew Warren at separate press conferences in Tampa, Florida.  On Sunday, August 7, 2022, Warren vowed to fight his suspension from office by DeSantis for his promise not to enforce the state's 15-week abortion ban and his support for gender transitioning treatments for women. minors.  (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

This combination of photos from Thursday, August 4, 2022 shows Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, left, and Hillsborough County State’s Attorney Andrew Warren at separate press conferences in Tampa, Florida. On Sunday, August 7, 2022, Warren vowed to fight his suspension from office by DeSantis for his promise not to enforce the state’s 15-week abortion ban and his support for gender transitioning treatments for women. minors. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

PA

The practice of a Florida prosecutor, who was suspended from duty by Gov. Ron DeSantis, of not prosecuting certain crimes, including suspended licenses, disorderly conduct and begging, was dropped by his successor.

Susan Lopez, who was named state’s attorney for the Tampa area after DeSantis removed Andrew Warren, told her staff last week she was calling off the practice.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that local leaders and experts fear the change will disproportionately affect people of color and the poor.

These are often “crimes of poverty,” said Melba Pearson of the Center for Administrative Justice at Florida International University.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister had criticized Warren’s practice of not prosecuting.

“By unilaterally declaring that you are not going to prosecute, you are not holding individuals accountable for their actions, which only empowers them to commit additional crimes,” Chronister wrote in a letter to Warren earlier this year.

Lopez said in a statement last week that his office “will assess each case that law enforcement sends to us and make a decision on whether to proceed.”

“Some cases will go ahead. Some won’t,” she said.

Warren, a Democrat, was suspended earlier this month by DeSantis, a Republican seeking re-election in November and a potential 2024 presidential candidate. The governor cited neglect of duty and other alleged violations of Warren signing statements with dozens of other prosecutors across the country pledging not to bring criminal charges against people who request or provide abortions or gender transitioning treatment.

Warren said the governor was essentially seeking to undo the will of the Tampa-area voters who elected him in 2016 and 2020.

Warren’s “deemed non-prosecution policy” for offenses such as suspended licenses, disorderly conduct, begging and prostitution was not necessarily a blanket policy of never prosecuting those charges. According to its policy, charges could be brought if, for example, the accused was also charged with another crime or violated his probation.

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