A DA Misunderstands

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diane Becton has decided that looters’ “needs” should matter in a prosecutor’s assessment of whether he should charge them with their crimes.

Becton’s full guidelines for charging an individual with looting are:

  1. Was this theft offense substantially motivated by the state of emergency, or simply a theft offense which occurred contemporaneous to the declared state of emergency?
    1. Factors to consider in making this determination:
      1. Was the target business open or closed to the public during the state of emergency?
      2. What was the manner and means by which the suspect gained entry to the business?
      3. What was the nature/quantity/value of the goods targeted?
      4. Was the theft committed for financial gain or personal need?
      5. Is there an articulable reason why another statute wouldn’t adequately address the particular incident?

A defendant’s “needs” are centered on his motive for committing the crime of which he’s accused. As such, they’re best considered by a jury during the penalty phase of the trial. “Needs” have no place in deciding whether the public, or the specific victims of the crime, should be allowed access to justice after having been, in the present context, looted, their property vandalized, destroyed, or stolen.

Even a California district attorney must understand this.

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