LA County Green Dan Kapelovitz for District Attorney
Dan Kapelovitz is a criminal defense attorney. His firm also represents animal rights activists pro bono when they are charged with crimes related to their working to help animals, according to his website. Kapelovitz has taught at the Peoples College of Law and was once a volunteer at the California Innocence Project. Previously, he was the features editor of Hustler magazine.
What needs to change in the D.A.’s office:
By Frank Stoltze
February 5, 2024
We need to actually implement progressive policies. The District Attorney's office is currently not implementing the policies that the people voted for when they voted for Gascón. Fearmongers blame him for an increase of crime when almost nothing has changed under his leadership.
I will recruit justice-oriented attorneys to fill the hundreds of vacancies. This will keep our deputies from being overworked and ensure that we have reformers who will implement progressive policies. Gascón came into office and issued many new directives (most of which I support) without first discussing them with his deputies, defense attorneys, law enforcement, or judges. As a result, many of the current line deputies refuse to implement these policies. We all need to work together to better the justice system.
When elected and before taking office, I will meet with all of the deputies and work with them to end mass incarceration and reduce crime. And I’ll talk to anyone before the election and incorporate any good ideas that will improve our office. I will promote veteran prosecutors who have a wealth of knowledge about the office. I am the only candidate who is in court every day all over the county and can see what is really happening. And I’m the only candidate whose practice is dedicated to representing indigent criminal defendants. I already work with prosecutors to try to obtain the most just result. As District Attorney, I know I can work with them to improve the justice system and therefore people's lives.
On justice system reform:
The District Atty.'s Office needs to truly seek justice in every single case. We need to get people into programs to prevent crimes from occurring in the first place. Not only will this reduce crime, but it will also help end mass incarceration.
We will stop seeking the longest prison terms allowed under the law (Gascón's current policy is to allege aggravating factors whenever possible, so defendants are facing the highest term of imprisonment). We will not seek bail for nonviolent offenders. We will not arrest victims who miss court and argue for them to be held in custody until they testify — sometimes for weeks (the District Attorney's Office currently does this). We will never file cases vindictively or to punish someone for exercising their constitutional rights (again something that I have seen happen). And we will not oppose meritorious motions for mental health diversion, veteran diversion, drug programs, and other alternative sentencing. And we will not oppose resentencing when a person is no longer a danger to the community.
Position on sentencing enhancements, prosecutions of misdemeanors:
Generally, I am against sentence enhancements. They can often more than double the sentence of 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 they 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.
Historically, 99% of gang enhancements have been alleged [against] people of color. Longer than needed sentences only fuel mass incarceration and have no upside. Mass incarceration actually begets crime. Children are often raised with a parent in prison. Three strikes has been a disaster, keeping rehabilitated people in prison for decades longer than necessary and destroying communities. I am also against the death penalty — the “ultimate enhancement.”
Victimless misdemeanors should not be prosecuted at all. Most other misdemeanors prosecutions should result in diversion so that a person will not have a conviction on their record. Even a misdemeanor conviction can have harsh consequences in terms of jobs, housing, immigration, and more. People who believe that being charged with a misdemeanor and facing a year in jail is not serious have likely never been to jail.
Stand on Prop. 47:
More than 60% of the voters approved Prop 47. Most Californians agree that someone shouldn't go to prison for relatively minor offenses. In terms of drug possession, drugs should be decriminalized. People need treatment — not punishment.
The fearmongers’ answer to everything is more incarceration. They’ve convinced people that theft crimes have increased much more than they have. Any increase in thefts is caused by copycat criminals who've been misled to believe that nothing will happen to them if they steal. Anyone caught stealing is criminally charged — often with felonies. I know. I am often appointed by the courts to represent them. If two people 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. If a store employee grabs someone who steals a candy bar, and that person breaks free, they are often charged with robbery because breaking free is considered using force. My opponents are now advocating to lower the dollar amount threshold needed to make theft a felony and send repeat shoplifters to prison. But the “rational criminal” who goes into a store and steals $949 worth of goods to avoid a felony conviction is a myth.
On bail reform:
We need to end cash bail. Bail creates a two-tiered system of justice. People are often coerced into pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit just to get out of jail. Some prosecutors will argue that a defendant is too dangerous to be released on bail, but then give a time-served offer the same day.
Today, people who can’t afford bail are given worse offers than those who can afford bail. People who are presumed innocent should not lose their homes and jobs because they cannot afford bail. The children of those accused of crimes should not become homeless or go hungry because a parent is stuck in jail and cannot provide for them as they fight his or her case. We will not ask the courts to incarcerate people unless there clear and convincing evidence that the accused is truly dangerous and a flight risk.
Tell us something surprising about yourself:
In addition to being a defense attorney, I am also an experimental filmmaker and video artist.
More voter resources:
- Website: Kapelovitz.com
Los Angeles Times interview with Kapelovitz when he ran for governor during the recall attempt against Gov. Gavin Newsom
- Joseph Firestone video interview<https://www.youtube.com/@joefirestonephd> with Kapelovitz