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Do you know who your district attorney is? Should you care?

| Oct 28, 2020 | Criminal Defense

“Why don’t I know who my DA is?”

That is a question that a commentator in a recent Denver article spotlighting Colorado district attorneys and upcoming elections to select them says many state residents are now asking themselves.

And Gordon McLaughlin stresses the importance of that query, given the significant role that DAs play in the state’s criminal justice system.

McLaughlin and a growing band of other individuals and groups properly note that most public attention concerning criminal law matters – e.g., reports of abuse, an ever-expanding prison population, disparate sentencing outcomes tied to race and poverty and so forth – falls directly on police officers. DAs frequently escape scrutiny when such topics and stories emerge. The Post piece points to “the often low-profile role many prosecutors have.”

That muted presence engenders some confusion in the public mind concerning where prosecutors work, what they do, how many exist across the state, how they assume their positions and more.

Colorado prosecutors: DAs are voted in, not appointed

The simple fact stressed in the above header vests Colorado voters who are justifiably interested in criminal law rules and reform with considerable power to affect policy and drive change.

McLaughlin and others who seek reform hope that the electorate exercises its right to vote in a way that will materially alter the state’s current DA roster following the rapidly nearing election.

“These people matter,” says a principal of one state nonprofit group pushing for change. “They are the gatekeepers.”

What that means is this: The DAs that collectively operate across Colorado’s nearly two dozen judicial districts are key – often the most important – decision makers concerning matters of consequence. Prosecutors command ultimate clout on issues driving these outcomes:

  • Criminal charging specifics (Misdemeanor or felony? One or multiple counts?)
  • Offer or denial of a plea deal
  • Bonding matters
  • Trial venue or an alternative resolution process
  • Probationary outcomes
  • Incarceration and linked sentencing specifics

What’s presently going on in Colorado re DA races

Candidly, a lot is going on. The Post article reports that the DA seat in every single one of the state’s 22 court regions is up for election currently, although many individuals are running without opposition.

Seven races are being contested, though, with November 3 looming ever larger as the day that will determine their outcome. Some of those contests are in the Denver area.

“You’re seeing folks being willing to step up who are not the anointed successor,” says McLaughlin. And their pro-reform voices are being collectively heard on both sides of the political aisle.

Isn’t that encouraging for anyone interested in democracy, representative government and citizens’ involvement in civic affairs?

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