Parisa will also:
Eliminate civil asset forfeiture without a conviction
Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to seize people’s cash and possessions without compensation regardless of whether the owner has been convicted or even charged with a crime. The current practice in Arlington and the City of Falls Church is that people can be subject to forfeiture when they are merely charged with – not convicted of – a crime. These assets are not returned, even if the owner is acquitted. The only way to get them back is in civil court, where a lawyer is not provided. Many people cannot afford to hire their own lawyer to get their assets back. This unfair practice has raised bipartisan concerns about due process. Parisa will stop forfeiture until after a person is found guilty.
Adopt open-file discovery
Our criminal justice system only works fairly when both sides are equally informed and prepared. Much of the evidence in criminal cases is in the hands of the prosecutor. The police interview witnesses, interrogate suspects, and collect forensic evidence. The current practice in Arlington and the City of Falls Church that is called “open file” discovery is anything but. The defense is not allowed to make copies of the file, but rather an attorney – not a paralegal or staff person – is only allowed to take notes. Nor does the defendant receive a copy of the police report underlying the charge. This is at odds with discovery practices in many other jurisdictions, including at the Federal level. Parisa will adopt a fully open-file system for pretrial discovery to honor the U.S. Constitution and so that defense attorneys have access to the information they need to make informed decisions in cases.
Only offer fair plea deals
On average, only about 5% of felony cases go to trial. Instead, the vast majority end in plea deals. Plea deals can be important to save survivors from being forced to testify in public about their trauma and to conserve state resources by avoiding costly trials. However, studies have found evidence of racial bias and coercion in the use of plea deals, forcing people to give up their day in court and plead guilty, sometimes to crimes they did not commit. Parisa will create guidelines for plea bargaining to ensure that plea deals are reasonable and fair.
This President’s anti-immigration agenda has eroded trust between immigrants and law enforcement, resulting in decreased reporting of crimes and less cooperation with police. This makes it more difficult to catch and convict criminals. Parisa will be cognizant of immigration consequences when making charging and sentencing decisions.
Never seek the death penalty
The death penalty is the single punishment for which there is no remedy if a mistake has been made. It is inhumane, expensive, and racially-biased. Too many people sentenced to death have been found innocent and exonerated, including Earl Washington from Virginia. Parisa will never seek a death sentence.
Work to raise the felony larceny threshold
Virginia’s felony larceny threshold is stillone of the lowest in the country—just stealing a phone can leave a person with a permanent felony record that will prevent them from getting jobs, voting, and serving on a jury. Studies have shown that a lower threshold does not even decrease the rate of theft or the average value of objects stolen. Parisa supports increasing the larceny threshold and will use her discretion as Commonwealth’s Attorney to make sure that people are not unduly punished for small thefts.
Assist re-entry to reduce recidivism
One of the main functions of the criminal justice system is rehabilitation. Those who have paid their debt to society should not be treated like second-class citizens. In Virginia, anyone convicted of a felony loses their right to vote. Only the Governor can restore this right. Governor McAuliffe tried to streamline the process of rights restoration, removing obstacles, and re-enfranchising tens of thousands of people. Parisa will support efforts to restore voting rights and to expunge records in appropriate cases so returning citizens are actively integrated into society.
Create a Conviction Integrity Unit
Wrongful convictions are one of our system’s greatest injustices. Not only are innocent people unfairly punished, but the actual perpetrators remain free to commit more crimes. Parisa will work ensure innocent people are not jailed or imprisoned with the creation of a Conviction Integrity Unit to review innocence claims. She will also implement reforms to ensure the accuracy of future convictions by training and directing prosecutors to seek out, recognize, and identify potentially exculpatory evidence and turn it over to the defense promptly. Parisa will support reforms in eyewitness identification procedures, establishing proper vetting of forensic sciences, support legislation that will provide justice in cases where unscientific methods were used, and support the videotaping of police