Boston, MA – When Suffolk County’s district attorney-elect Rachel Rollins takes over the prosecutor’s office in January, criminals will no longer need to worry about being held accountable for many offenses – including resisting arrest.
“It’s a recipe for disaster,” veteran Boston defense attorney, Robert Griffin, told the Boston Globe.
“The problem is the message that you’re sending,” Griffin stressed. “You’re encouraging bad behavior. You’re telling people that we’re not going to do anything about this.”
Rollins, 47, has been widely hailed – and widely criticized – for her well-publicized “Charges to be Declined” list, which she has featured on her campaign webpage.
With rare exception, offenses of shoplifting, trespass, threats, and larceny under $250 will no longer be prosecuted, as well as disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and “minor driving offenses,” according to the list.
Breaking and entering will not be prosecuted, as long as the perpetrator makes sure the property is vacant. Alternatively, those who commit break-ins of occupied homes because they are cold or tired, but don’t damage anything, will also be in the clear.
Offenders won’t have to worry about going to court over receiving stolen property or underage drinking, and won’t be held accountable for wanton or malicious destruction of property, either.
Making threats will also be permitted, with the exception of those related to domestic violence.
Drug possession will no longer be prosecuted in Suffolk County – even in cases where the suspect is a drug dealer.
Cases where an offender is charged with resisting arrest and nothing else will also be turned away, as well as any instances where the person resists arrest while being charged with another offense on Rollins’ “Charges to be Declined” list.
“In the exceptional circumstances where prosecution of one of these charges is warranted, the line DA must first seek permission from his or her supervisor,” Rollins’ website noted.
Boston Police Protection Union President Michael Leary said the district attorney-elect’s changes will likely lead to an increase in Boston’s crime rate, the Boston Herald reported.
“If you’re doing crime, you have to be held accountable for the crimes you do,” Leary argued. “If you’re out there doing bad things then unfortunately jail is the answer. That’s what jail is for – for people who break the law.”
“The quality of life is going to go down because she’s not going to prosecute these people and they are going to keep doing it,” he added.
“Our job is already dangerous. Its unbelievable to think people are willing to make it more dangerous for us,” Leary told WBZ. “I fear that officers will begin to see even more aggressiveness than we already face on a daily basis…if there are no consequences, offenders will figure ‘why not resist?’”
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes said he is especially worried about the victims who will never see justice served, the Boston Herald reported.
“Their voices need to be heard as well,” Chief Kyes said.
“I don’t think she’s properly taking into account the cost that criminals inflict on society even for minor crimes,” National District Attorney’s Association President William Fitzpatrick explained. “Ignoring minor crimes leads to an increase in violent crimes.”
Former U.S. President Barack Obama disagreed, and praised Rollins during a speech at the University of Illinois in September, WBZ reported.
“Do what they just did in Philadelphia and Boston, and elect state attorneys and district attorneys who are looking at issues in a new light,” he said at the time.
Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed concurred, and described Rollins’ declination to prosecute as “the next frontier of criminal justice reform,” WGBH reported.
“If you have a prosecutor who is declining to charge…that can go a long way toward advancing justice, cutting back on mass incarceration,” Medwed said.
“I think Rachael Rollins should be applauded for trying to do something different, for trying to address the trap of a criminal conviction that ensnares so many young people in Boston, especially young men of color,” the professor added. “Even if you get probation, typically, for one of these offenses, it’s very easy to violate the terms of your probation.”
Being convicted of criminal offenses create a lot of hardships for offenders, Medwed argued.
“The collateral consequences of a criminal record are enormous. You’ll have difficulty finding employment. You might be ineligible for certain forms of public housing, in some states you can’t even vote,” he complained.
Rollins will be at the helm of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office effective Jan. 2, 2019.