So, what does a district attorney actually do? - Generocity Philly

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Dec. 6, 2018 3:20 pm

So, what does a district attorney actually do?

Know Your DA in PA can teach you: The digital ACLU campaign aims to educate state residents about how the person in this elected position influences the criminal justice system.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (R) with his office's immigration counsel, Caleb Arnold.

(Courtesy photo)

When he’s not being interviewed by The New York Times, The New Yorker or Samantha Bee, uber-progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is ending cash bail for low-level offenses, charging police officers for conducting illegal stop-and-frisks and offering lesser sentences for some violent crimes.

You might not know the full extent of what DAs do, though. You wouldn’t be alone.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania wants to combat that knowledge gap with its new Know Your DA in PA campaign hoping to educate the state’s residents on how the position influences and interacts with local criminal justice systems.

Check it out

The campaign, launched Thursday, is part of the ACLU’s larger Campaign for Smart Justice, which aims to reduce the United States’ prison and jail population by 50 percent and reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

“From Philadelphia to Erie, from Pittsburgh to Wilkes-Barre, communities have made crystal clear that they want more transparency and better accountability in their county prosecutor’s office,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a statement. “This website is intended to give Pennsylvanians a way to exercise that accountability and to send every Pennsylvania voter to the polls in 2019 equipped with more information about their district attorney than they likely have ever had before.”

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Among other things, DAs can:

  • Decide which crimes to prosecute
  • Decide whether a defendant is offered diversion
  • Determine bail
  • Negotiate plea deals
  • Influence sentencing

The site also encourages users to petition their district attorneys to answer an ACLU survey about their views about the criminal justice system. It notes that Krasner hasn’t yet responded, but given how much national and local media attention he’s gotten in his year in office, Philadelphians likely have a good idea of how he feels.

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