Will the new Trump administration affect my case?

After the presidential election, many clients have asked whether the new Trump administration will affect their case. As with most areas of the law, the answer is "it depends". For the average person facing a criminal charge on the state or local level (for example, a DUI), it's highly unlikely that anything will change about their case. The majority of criminal charges are brought by the state, not the federal government, and are prosecuted by the local district attorney's office. District attorneys in Colorado are elected at the local level, and are funded by the county or district where they are located. They are not controlled by, nor do they answer to, anyone at the federal level. In other words, just because the Trump administration says it's going to "bring back law and order" and get "tough on crime," it doesn't mean your local DA is going to change how they do their job. Your local DA answers to the voters in their district, and he or she is much more likely to reflect the attitude of the local electorate when it comes to criminal justice.

That is not the case, however, for people facing federal charges. Individuals charged with violating a federal law are being prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office in their federal district. The President appoints a U.S. Attorney to each of the 94 federal districts. The Office of the U.S. Attorneys is one of many agencies within the Department of Justice. If you're really curious, you can get more information about the US Attorneys here. So, the President can appoint U.S. Attorneys who will prosecute federal crimes in a manner that fits within his vision of criminal justice. The same goes for federal law enforcement agencies.

So what about larger criminal justice reform? One of my favorite websites, Vox, had a good piece about that here. As the author, German Lopez, points out, there has been a movement to reduce jail and prison populations, even in states that voted for Trump, mostly due to the soaring costs of incarceration. So, these states are unlikely to change course overnight, unless they got a massive infusion of funding specifically designated for jails and prisons, which seems unlikely (although with this President, who knows).

In general, regarding the vast majority of criminal charges, which are state or municipal charges, the federal government has little to no control. They can, however, increase or decrease federal grant funding for programs such as law enforcement investigations, domestic violence counseling, and drug treatment programs. Hopefully President Trump's administration continues with the common-sense criminal justice reforms that began under President Obama, but as with just about everything else, we will just all have to wait and see what President Trump does.


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