HB 288: Prosecutorial Transparency
This bill passed out of the house with a vote of 53-19, and passed the senate with a vote of 22-1.
Today, around 95 percent of all state and federal convictions result from guilty pleas. Plea deals now hold up the foundation of the court system and without them, it would be nearly impossible to process the caseload in our legal system. Yet we know almost nothing about plea deals, as little information is collected. This is a problem for policymakers in the courts and legislature who need to understand how the laws and policies they pass are being applied across the state.
Representative Marsha Judkins is sponsoring House Bill 288 which would require Utah’s courts, prosecutors, and county jails to collect information about their cases. The bulk of the information, including things like a defendant’s charges, bail amount, discovery disclosure date, and conviction date, would be collected by Utah’s prosecutorial agencies around the state. The Commission of Criminal and Juvenile Justice is tasked with analyzing the data and publishing it in a report on an annual basis. The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee can request an analysis of the data to help guide their policy decisions.
This information will provide great insight into the way the legal system truly operates, which is not only great for public transparency but prosecutors as well. Prosecutors would benefit from this information as they will be able to critically evaluate what’s working and what’s not from a broadened, data-driven perspective. When in the thick of charging hundreds of individual cases, it can be difficult to take a step back and evaluate the impacts of decision making. But if the bill passes, this data will help provide prosecutors with the tools they need to do just that.