Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Lobbying for Leniency?

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Lobbying for Leniency?

The three prosecutors in the ultra-liberal dense urban core consisting of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax have broken with their Commonwealth-wide association which includes prosecutors from less liberal places. These three and their eight like-minded colleagues in other places in Virginia somehow believe they are more benighted than Virginia's 109 other commonwealth attorneys. But they are not lobbying for justice in this month's special legislative session -- they are lobbying for leniency. Some of the crimes for which they are seeking expungement, such as drunk/drugged driving, are serious crimes. Do we really want to hide this sort of information about an applicant for a truck-driving job?

These three young prosecutors have forgotten or ignored history. In the 1960s and 70s, courts and lawmakers were taken in by these same sorts of "justice" and "fairness" arguments and relaxed laws. Soon thereafter began a crime spike (tripling in under a decade), giving rise to a reaction which generated over a quarter century of reforms making laws stricter, with the consequence that crime levels returned to near pre-1960s levels. The "war on drugs'" legal reforms no doubt played a role in stanching these high crime rates.

Arlington and Fairfax's Commonwealth’s Attorneys ran on progressive platforms to defeat moderate Democrat incumbents. This progressivism has led to potential prosecutorial misconduct masquerading as discretion, to the point where judges had to reject Arlington's prosecutor's effort to set aside charges to assure the laws are faithfully executed rather than ignored. There are limits to how far progressive prosecutors can go in enforcing laws they don't like, but which are on the books because conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats in the legislature enacted them.

"Banning the box" and statutorily regulating how employers and landlords can consider elements of a criminal record are a more responsible way to handle criminal histories than engaging the courts in legal maneuvers to pretend it never happened by expunging or sealing records, which amounts to hiding them.

Dino Drudi