Non-prosecution of low-level offenses dropped in Tampa

This combination of Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022 photos shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren during separate news conferences in Tampa, Fla. On Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, Warren vowed to fight his suspension from office by DeSantis over his promise not to enforce the state’s 15-week abortion ban and support for gender transition treatments for minors. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The practice by a Florida prosecutor, who was suspended from his job by Gov. Ron DeSantis, of not prosecuting suspended licenses, disorderly conduct and other low-level misdemeanors has been dropped by his successor.

Susan Lopez who was appointed as state attorney for the Tampa area after DeSantis removed Andrew Warren from office told her staff last week that she is rescinding the practice.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that local leaders and experts fear that the change will disproportionately affect people of color and the poor.

They’re often “crimes of poverty,” said Melba Pearson, of the Center for Administrative Justice at Florida International University.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister had criticized Warren’s non-prosecution practice.

“By unilaterally stating you are not going to prosecute, you are failing to hold individuals accountable for their actions, which only empowers them to commit additional crimes,” Chronister wrote in a letter to Warren earlier this year.

Lopez said in a statement last week that her office “will evaluate every case law enforcement sends us and make a decision about whether to prosecute. Some cases will go forward. Some will not.”

Warren, a Democrat, was suspended earlier this month by DeSantis, a Republican seeking re-election in November and a potential 2024 presidential candidate. The governor cited neglect of duty and other alleged violations from Warren signing statements with dozens of other prosecutors nationwide vowing not to pursue criminal cases against people who seek or provide abortions or gender transition treatments.

Warren said the governor was essentially seeking to nullify the will of voters in the Tampa area who elected him in 2016 and 2020.

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