HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointee to be the top prosecutor in Hillsborough County, Suzy Lopez, is testing the political waters on her own.
State Attorney Suzy Lopez on Wednesday filed to run for her job in 2024, just less than a year after DeSantis named her as the replacement for Andrew Warren, the 13th Judicial Circuit’s former top prosecutor.
“The community needs to know that their State Attorney is only interested in finding justice and making certain those guilty of committing crimes pay their debt to our community. Victims of crime know Hillsborough County is safer today than it used to be in just under one year,” Lopez said in a press release.
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“I’m a prosecutor, not a politician, and this office will stay focused on prosecuting criminals, not partisan politics, as long as I’m in charge,” Lopez added.
Lopez was a longtime veteran of the office she now leads before she became a county judge in Hillsborough. She was appointed to that post as well.
The Republican governor did so after Warren vowed to not prosecute any cases related to a new state law that banned abortions after 15 weeks. DeSantis used powers granted to him under Florida’s Constitution.
In March, Lopez changed how violent juvenile offender cases are evaluated and offenders charged with the rise in teen gun violence.
“We have a team who evaluates each case; they look at the defendant’s age, the charge, the prior history, and other factors,” said Lopez at a press conference in March. “For example, most recently, a juvenile was direct filed into adult court. For the last three years, he has had over 20 pending cases in the juvenile system, many involving guns. He picked up a new charge that was gun related, and that charge was direct filed into adult court.”
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On average, the percentage of gun-related juvenile cases prosecuted as adults has increased by more than 20% under Lopez.
“It is incredibly rare that a juvenile’s first offense is murder or attempted murder; we tend to see patterns of escalating violence,” said Lopez.
To address the rise in teen gun violence in the Tampa Bay area, Lopez has changed how the agency evaluates the most serious juvenile gun violence cases by ensuring the punishment fits the crime.
“Prolific teen offenders will face more serious consequences compared to years prior,” according to Lopez’s office. “While it would be our preference that there be no children handling guns in our community, anyone who uses a gun to commit an act of violence must face the consequences to keep our community safe.”
“We are better adjusting to the needs of our community, and I commend the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office and the Tampa Police Department for their incredible work, boots on the ground every day, to get guns off of the street and out of the hands of juveniles,” said Lopez.
“A prosecutor’s tool is to prosecute. I will,” said Lopez.
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