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Report: State Prosecutors Have Divergent Views On Offender Sentencing Post-Realignment

Publication Date: 
March 11, 2014
Source: 
Daily Journal
Author: 
Hamed Aleaziz

Professor Robert Weisberg teams up with Professor David Ball of Santa Clara Law School to discuss the effects of realignment on sentencing length for The Daily Journal. 

California prosecutors have divergent views on the sentencing of felony offenders who have been transferred to counties since the Legislature enacted a realignment of the criminal justice system, according to a Stanford report released this week.

Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford Law School and David Ball, a professor at Santa Clara Law School, surveyed 20 prosecutors' offices across the state and found that they often disagreed on the length of sentences for so-called "realigned" offenders. Realignment transferred responsibility for nonserious, nonviolent, nonsexual felons to counties in 2011.

Weisberg and Ball gave prosecutors hypotheticals of common "realigned" offenses and asked them what charge and sentence they would recommend.

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The report also did not find any evidence that charging practices had changed since the enactment of realignment. The authors, however, lamented how difficult it was to get prosecutors to participate in the survey. Many, they said, refused to be involved. In one case, a prosecutors' office declined to be surveyed even after a high-ranking member of the office helped the authors refine the hypothetical scenarios given to prosecutors.

"This finding," they said, "underscores an important point: D.A.s undoubtedly have the most power and discretion in American criminal justice, and they have very little to gain from greater transparency."