Header: Dan Kapelovitz for Los Angeles District Attorney 2024

2024 Issues

Death Penalty

Unlike most of my opponents, I will never seek the death penalty.  In 2016, the majority of voters in Los Angeles County voted to repeal the death penalty.  Since then, more and more Californians have decided that they are against sentencing people to death.  They are realizing that the death penalty doesn’t work and that it disproportionately affects people of color and the underprivileged.  In a 2021 poll, 44% of Californians said they’d vote to eliminate the death penalty, with only 35% supporting it.  Additionally, 48% supported Newsom’s executive order to halt executions, while only 33% opposed it.

That people on death row have been exonerated is reason enough to eliminate the death penalty.  Moreover, it doesn’t deter murder.  People committing crimes assume they will not get caught.  Otherwise, life in prison would deter them just as much as execution.  Eliminating the death penalty would save California millions of dollars — money that could be used to address the root causes of violent crime.  And, of course, killing people is wrong.

Prop 57

Under Proposition 57, prosecutors cannot directly file juvenile cases in adult court. This seems more than reasonable. In fact, this provision of Proposition 57 does not go far enough. Juveniles should not be tried as adults at all. Today, a juvenile can be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Such a sentence for a minor is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause (even if the Supreme Court disagrees). Proposition 57 also allows for the possible early release of nonviolent offenders from prison. Proposition 57 is a step in the right direction, but to truly end mass incarceration, we need further improvements in sentencing reform and crime prevention.

Enhancements

Generally, I am against sentence enhancements.  They can often more than double the sentence for the underlying offense.  Even without enhancements, people convicted of serious and violent crimes receive extremely long prison sentences.  Enhancements disproportionally affect people of color and the underprivileged, and are often counterproductive.  In terms of the proper sentence, each case is different, and alleging an enhancement may be appropriate.  But we need to ensure that people who are similarly situated are treated the same — no matter who they are and no matter where in the county they are prosecuted.

As for gang enhancements, historically, 99% of gang enhancements in Los Angeles County have been alleged against people of color.  Groups of white people who commit crimes are almost never charged with gang offenses or enhancements.

Three strikes has been a disaster, keeping rehabilitated people — disproportionately people of color — in prison for decades longer than necessary and destroying communities.

Longer than needed sentences only fuel mass incarceration and have no upside.  Mass incarceration actually begets crime.  Children who have a parent in prison are missing an important person in their lives and are more likely to find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system. 

I am also against the death penalty — the “ultimate enhancement.”

Prop 47

Proposition 47 made shoplifting in the amount of less than $950 a misdemeanor. It also made mere possession of a narcotic a misdemeanor. Most people in California agree that someone should not be labeled a convicted felon for life for committing these relatively minor offenses. In terms of drug possession crimes, Proposition 47 does not go far enough because mere possession of drugs should be decriminalized. People who are addicted to drugs need treatment — not punishment. Moreover, drugs are extremely easy to obtain in prison, so that is one of the worst places to send someone with a drug problem.

The current efforts to revise Proposition 47 are just a reaction to the “lock ’em up” fearmongers out there who think the answer to everything crime-related is more incarceration. These mass-incarcerators are using the media to convince the public to believe that theft crime rates are increasing much more than they really are. Any increase in thefts is likely the result of copy-cat criminals who have been misled by the media to believe that nothing will happen to them if they steal. That is not true.

Currently, if someone is caught stealing, they are criminally charged. I know. I am often appointed by the courts to represent many of these people. And most of the time, these people are charged with felonies. Given the price of most goods, it does not take much to reach the $950 threshold. And if two or more people conspire to steal a pack of gum, they can be charged with a felony because, oddly, conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor can be charged as a felony. And if someone steals a candy bar, and a store employee grabs that person and then the person breaks free, they can be charged with robbery — a violent strike — because breaking free is considered using force.

Many of my opponents are now advocating to lower the dollar amount threshold needed to make theft a felony. But the vast majority of cases involve either minor offenses, such as a person taking an item to eat from a grocery store, which most reasonable people believe should be treated as a misdemeanor, or they are relatively major offenses, such as a group of people taking a large amount of, say, expensive clothing, which almost always results in meeting the $950 amount and thus are charged as felonies. The “rational criminal” who goes into a store and steals $949 worth of goods is a myth.

The mass-incarcerators also want to make it so that someone convicted of petty theft multiple times can be charged with a felony. But reasonable people don’t think that a person who steals a candy bar three times should go to prison for several years.

Also, some people falsely believe that being charged with a misdemeanor is not serious. Facing a year in jail is serious. Losing your job because you have a theft conviction is serious. Losing your home because you can’t afford bail so you can’t pay rent is serious. And if you aren’t a U.S. citizen, having a theft conviction is extremely serious.

Anyone who thinks that being charged with a misdemeanor and facing months in jail is not serious has likely never been to jail.

Animal Rights

I’m an animal rights attorney who has successfully represented many animal rights defendants pro bono.  These activists were charged in violation of their First Amendment right to protest.   

During law school, I worked for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Animal Protection Unit, and was the president of UCLA Law Schools Animal Law Society. 

I would not enforce unconstitutional laws that punish free speech.  (For more info, see: Laws Should Protect Animals | Dissident Voice by Dan Kapelovitz, Jill Ryther and Taimie Bryant.) 

Instead of filing charges against animal rights activists, we will file charges against those who use violence against protestors and those who illegally exploit animals. 

Moreover, as District Attorney, I will work with legislators to enact stronger laws to protect animals, including protecting animals from cruel experimentation and factory farming.  We need stronger laws, and we need to enforce the laws that are already on the books. 

As the only candidate who is a member of the Green Party – which is well-known for advocating for the protection of animals and the environment – I support the Green Party’s platform regarding the Ethical Treatment of Animals.   

I understand animal law issues better than any of my opponents, and I know how best to use the justice system to protect all beings. 

DK 4 DA LA 2024

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