Non-prosecution of low-level offenses dropped in Tampa
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The practice by a Florida prosecutor, who was suspended from his job by Gov. Ron DeSantis, of not prosecuting some misdemeanors including suspended licenses, disorderly conduct and panhandling has been dropped by his successor.
Susan Lopez, who was appointed as state attorney for the Tampa area after DeSantis removed Andrew Warren from office, told her staff last week that she is rescinding the practice.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that local leaders and experts fear the change will disproportionately affect people of color and the poor.
They’re 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 nonprosecution practice.
“By unilaterally stating you are not going to prosecute, you are failing to hold 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 her office “will evaluate every case law enforcement sends us and make a decision about whether to prosecute.”
“Some cases will go forward. Some will not,” she said.
Warren, a Democrat, was suspended earlier this month by DeSantis, a Republican seeking reelection in November and a potential 2024 presidential candidate. The governor cited neglect of duty and other alleged violations from Warren signing statements with dozens of other prosecutors nationwide vowing not to pursue criminal cases against people who seek or provide abortions or gender transition treatments.
Warren said the governor was essentially seeking to nullify the will of voters in the Tampa area who elected him in 2016 and 2020.
Warren’s “policy of presumptive nonprosecution” for misdemeanors such as suspended licenses, disorderly conduct, panhandling and prostitution was not necessarily a blanket policy of never prosecuting those charges. Under his policy, charges could go forward if, for example, the accused were also charged with another crime or were in violation of probation.