The newly created Family Violence Unit handles crimes involving allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse. The number of felony prosecutors assigned to these cases have been increased from 22 to 35 (an increase of more than 60%), and an experienced family violence prosecutor has been hired to lead this unit. These first steps will allow the DA’s Office to more effectively resolve cases, provide greater assistance to victims, and improve community safety.
The office has instituted a new Gang Initiative with law enforcement to improve information-sharing among law enforcement agencies and the DA’s Office to address gang-related violence in Bexar County. The DA’s Office is well situated to improve coordination and information-sharing among law enforcement agencies and, through this initiative, focus and more efficiently use law enforcement and prosecutorial resources on the problem of violent crime.
Cite and Release.
With the cooperation of the San Antonio Police Department and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies, we have revamped and expanded our cite-and-release program. We aim to start the new program this summer. Once in place, police will be able to issue tickets for misdemeanor offenses such as possession of marijuana, misdemeanor theft, driving with an invalid license, and criminal mischief. This program benefits law enforcement by allowing police to stay on the streets. Taxpayers save money because the County will not have to pay to jail people when the police do not want them jailed. Those who are accepted into and successfully complete the program will benefit by avoiding arrest and a criminal record.
Diversion programs that address the root causes of crime by providing treatment or other services reduce recidivism while helping people remain free of unnecessary criminal records. These programs also help people avoid the harmful collateral consequences of a conviction—such as the loss of housing, employment, and student loans. The Pretrial Diversion program was an existing program when Joe Gonzales was elected D. A. Under Joe’s leadership, this program has been expanded by removing barriers to admission, like application fees and mandated guilty pleas. Also, strict guidelines that eliminated many people from acceptance into the Pretrial Diversion program have been lifted and prosecutors have been given more discretion to accept people into the program. If a person is accepted into the diversion program, prosecutors will dismiss the case and allow the person to complete the program. If the program is successfully completed, the D.A.’s Office will agree to an expunction of that offense from the person’s criminal record. In the first 100 days of Joe’s administration, 1109 people have been admitted into the program, compared with only 259 people in the first 100 days of 2018.
Trace Drug Possession and small amounts of Marijuana Possession.
In order to focus resources on the prosecution of violent crime, the D.A.’s Office is instituting a new declination policy in the prosecution of certain low quantity drug cases. This office will not prosecute people for possession of a penalty group 1 controlled substance case when the amount is less than 0.25 grams. This office will not prosecute people for simple possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
It is not right or fair that a person should have to languish in jail before a minor criminal case is resolved simply because they do not have the money to pay for a bond. The D.A.’s new bail policy is designed to address this problem.
In cases were a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or state jail felony, prosecutors will recommend release on a PR bond unless:
- the defendant is a flight risk (or)
- the defendant is a danger to the community or the victim.
Of course, police officers may still make any arrest when probable cause exists. We will not make final prosecution decisions until a prosecutor has had time and opportunity to review the evidence during intake. Our office has a duty to look at each case individually; we understand that there may be circumstances that warrant deviation from our policy principles. If a prosecutor thinks that a case warrants an exception to any of our policies, especially when they feel that the person may be a danger to a victim or to the community, that prosecutor will document their reasons in the case file and seek supervisor approval.
“It is my hope that these new policies will ensure a more efficient and just manner to prosecute crime while keeping our community safe.” – Joe Gonzales, Bexar County Criminal District Attorney