Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Do prosecutors "hate new crimes"?

Our pal Shannon Edmonds of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association forwards a link to this short law review article provocatively titled, "Why prosecutors hate new crimes" (pdf). Give it a read, the fellow makes an interesting argument - one I partially (but not entirely) agree with. I replied to Shannon's email thusly:
Thanks Shannon,

But surely "hate" is a little strong? They're not always out there promoting them, but prosecutors don't "hate" new crimes enough to publicly oppose them. And they certainly don't push to roll back extra crimes created in the past. Ever.

Perhaps the title should have been "Why prosecutors are sometimes slightly annoyed at new crimes even if they never say so publicly." ;)
It's certainly true that most new crimes and penalty increases are proposed by special interest groups, not police or prosecutors. But if prosecutors "hate" new crimes I'd expect them to oppose them at the Lege when they're proposed. That seldom happens. Ditto for "enhancements."

I don't think prosecutors "hate" new crimes mainly because they have discretion to ignore them. When they really hate this or that change in criminal law, I haven't noticed prosecutors being particularly reticent about criticizing bills they don't like.

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