Questions to Ask Your DA
The ACLU does not endorse or oppose candidates, but we do believe voters should have the information they need to make informed decisions. We encourage you to research the candidates for district attorney in your area, contact those individuals, attend candidate forums, and make sure you know who you are electing to these crucial positions. You can also use this questionnaire as a guide to begin exploring the positions each candidate holds.
Will you commit to adopt a policy making the following offenses associated with poverty and health the lowest priority for prosecution
- Failure to pay fees or fines
- Driving on a suspended license
- Consensual sex work
- Disorderly conduct
- Obstructing of a passageway
- Marijuana possession for personal use
- Possession of other drugs besides marijuana for personal use
- Seeking or providing an abortion (if it becomes illegal)Will you commit to issuing a fiscal impact report to the court in all cases where your office seeks a sentence of incarceration?
Will you commit to reducing the number of people sentenced to serve in jail or prison each year?
Do you commit to expanding the use of and eligibility for diversion courts and/or programs to address:
- Substance use disorder
- Mental health
- First-time offenders
Shelby County assistant district attorneys work in close connection with law enforcement on a daily basis and rely on them to gather the evidence and testimony they need to successfully prosecute cases. This makes it hard for prosecutors to investigate and prosecute the same police officers in cases of police violence, when they may have an incentive to protect the police officers involved. Will you hold police accountable by committing to:
- Require independent investigations in all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilians, or are accused of misconduct
- Create an independent unit that will focus exclusively on serious misconduct and that is staffed with prosecutors who do not work alongside local law enforcement on a regular basis
- Make investigation findings publicly available when deciding whether to charge an officer with a crime
Will your office hold police accountable by maintaining a list of officers who are engaged in patterns of misconduct, including racial bias, excessive force, or dishonesty, and make the list available to defense counsel and the public?
Will you decline to rely on the reports of those officers on such a list, and to call those officers as witnesses in any criminal prosecutions?
DA Office Transparency & Accountability
Will you track & make public anonymized demographics such as race, gender, age, disability & socioeconomic status, including in charging decisions, bail recommendations, sentence type/length, plea bargains, diversion program placements, & convictions?
Will you commit to create a Conviction Integrity Unit to review innocence claims, due process violations, and excessive sentences?
Will you commit to releasing annual transparency reports, detailing how many times your office issued surveillance demands on companies or applied for warrants or other court orders to conduct electronic surveillance?
Will you disclose the type of investigation (e.g. drugs, assault, larceny, etc.) and the type of legal demand (e.g. subpoena, court order, warrant, wiretap order) your office sought in cases in which you sought surveillance demands?
Will you create a community advisory board within your first 100 days in office that meets monthly & represents impacted communities (immigrants, formerly incarcerated people, communities of color & LGBTQ people) to identify priorities for your office?
Do you commit to holding quarterly meetings, which are open to the public, to discuss community concerns?
Will you pledge to publish all office policies and protocols online?
Poverty Penalties & Cash Bail
Will you commit to seeking cash bail only as a last resort and after all less restrictive alternatives have been considered, as is currently required under Tennessee state law and the U.S. Constitution?
Will you commit to creating a list of charges and other case factors for which your office will support pretrial release on recognizance?
Will you commit to reviewing cases and training your staff to ensure that individuals are not incarcerated pretrial solely because they are unable to afford bail?
Will you use your prosecutorial discretion to establish and enforce an office-wide policy to support all motions to waive court costs when the defendant has been found indigent?
Will you use your prosecutorial discretion to establish and enforce an office-wide policy to create opportunities for individuals to clear court debts?
Youth and Veteran Justice
Will you commit to reducing the number of juveniles transferred to adult court?
Will you commit to never seeking life without parole or equivalent sentences for juveniles?
Will you address the school-to-prison pipeline by establishing and enforcing office-wide policies to reduce the number of children referred to juvenile court for misdemeanors that occurred at school?
Will you commit to require that prosecutors turn over full discovery to the defense pre-indictment?
Do you pledge to take steps to eliminate racial disparities caused by prosecutor conduct in filing charges, plea bargaining and sentencing?
In Tennessee, Black people are over 3X as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite using marijuana at similar rates. Will you decline to prosecute low level offenses that have significant racial disparities in arrest rates?
Will you commit to diversifying the staff of the DA's office?
Do you pledge to establish a written policy and training of staff about the unintended immigration-related consequences of prosecutorial decisions at all stages of a case?
Do you pledge to require staff to disclose immigration-related consequences to defendants during any plea negotiations?
Will you create a streamlined post-conviction procedure for non-citizens to limit immigration related consequences of a prior conviction, including access to pre-plea diversion programs?
Integrity in Plea Bargaining
Do you pledge to establish and enforce office-wide policies to minimize the coercive nature of plea bargaining, and to not threaten longer sentences if people refuse plea offers?
Would you support legislation to remove juvenile court fees and fines?
Would you support legislation to expand access to the ballot box for people with felony convictions by removing the requirement that court fees and fines be paid and child support be current before voting rights can be restored?