'Back to basics': Newly-appointed Hillsborough state attorney sets new tone with policy rollbacks coming soon

Acting Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez is not wasting any time making her mark in her new role. She plans to roll back certain policies her predecessor Andrew Warren had in place. 

Lopez announced, "it's time to get back to basics," in a memo she wrote to her staff on Monday. 

The rollback on certain policies includes bike and pedestrian stops that Warren felt unfairly targeted minorities. 

"We will not surrender our ethical and legal duties to think tanks or advocacy groups," Lopez wrote. "We will be prosecutors who partner with law enforcement, advocate for crime victims and follow the law."

Criminal defense attorney Brett Metcalf reviewed the letter for FOX 13. He said it lacks specifics but there is a real message being sent. 

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"She's trying to indicate wherever the law takes her is the direction she’s going to go," explained Metcalf.

He also said Lopez is setting the tone for a new way of doing things. 

"Suzy Lopez is trying to reassure the attorneys in her office that she has faith in them, she has confidence in them and she seemingly wants to give them discretion, where she believes Andrew Warren was not giving it to them to begin with," Metcalf believes.

Metcalf said no one knows yet from a policy perspective, how this will change things. Metcalf explained some in the legal community wonder if some of Warren's policies, like the RIDR program enacted in 2018, aimed at resolving low level DUI offenses will go away. 

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"It's for first time offenders in exchange for agreeing some enhanced sanctions up front the person would have a cleaner criminal record on the back end," explained Metcalf.   

But the biggest announcement came when Lopez said her office would seek the death penalty for suspected killer Matthew Terry. He's accused of stabbing his girlfriend to death. Lopez called his actions "cruel and heinous."

Lopez, who became a new Hillsborough County judge in March was handpicked by Governor Ron Desantis after he removed twice-elected state attorney Andrew Warren.  The governor accused him of neglect of duty, when Warren vowed not to criminalize minors seeking sex change operations and pledging not to prosecute people who seek abortions. 

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Lopez served 17 years as a prosecutor at the Hillsborough state attorney's office, the same office she is now is in charge of. 

Lopez wrote in the one-page memo that she promised the governor that she and her staff plan to rise to the challenge.