Ann Arbor, MI – The newly-elected Washtenaw County prosecuting attorney made news when he eliminated cash bail his third day in office and promised not to press charges against anyone for prostitution or illegal drugs and weapons found by police during routine traffic stops.
Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit was sworn into office on Jan. 1, WDIV reported.
Savit has told his staff to use their discretion to determine when charges should be pressed and when they shouldn’t, according to the Detroit News.
“What we do in the prosecutor’s office does not have any impact on state law. But prosecutors have inherent discretion to determine when — and in what circumstances — to file criminal charges,” Savit said. “That’s baked into the system; prosecutors have an independent duty to bring only the charges that are in the interests of justice.”
The new Washtenaw prosecutor has also promised not to prosecute consensual sex work and vowed his office won’t press charges for illegal drugs or weapons found by police officers in the course of a routine traffic stop, the Detroit News reported.
“I haven’t issued a policy change I didn’t promise was coming when I ran for this office,” Savit said in February, according to MLive. “This is change Washtenaw County has been going toward for a long time now. I reject the tough on crime/soft on crime dichotomy and am solely focused on the safety of the public and fair justice.”
Savit was a public school teacher in the Bronx and a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
He said his initiatives shouldn’t be a surprise, MLive reported.
The decision to stop demanding cash bail has drawn criticism from lawmakers and law enforcement.
Michigan Republican State Representative Matt Maddock said ending cash bail makes the county less safe, the Detroit News reported.
“Cash bail ensures that people show up to court,” he said. “Eliminating it, as we have seen in every other state that tries to eliminate it, is that the ‘failure to appear’ rate skyrockets and courts cease to effectively function.”
Maddock is a bail bondsman by profession, according to the Detroit News.
“Bail is the financial promise that someone won’t run away,” he explained. “So if they face serious charges, without bail, they will flee. These policies will kill people.”
St. Clair County Prosecutor Mike Wendling said Savit’s decisions to eliminate cash bail and not prosecute prostitution were problematic.
“I see that as not following the law” Wendling, former president of the Prosecutors Association of Michigan, told the Detroit News. “We have an obligation to enforce the law. It’s not my job to decide which laws to enforce. The role of the prosecutor is to follow the law as it is written.”