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Prosecutorial Discretion and Criminal Charges

Posted Tuesday, February 20, 2018 by Lizanne Padula.

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Prosecutorial discretion is the power prosecutors have to decide what criminal charges to bring and how to pursue each case. Prosecutors get to decide whether to file charges, what crimes to charge, who to charge, and how to resolve the case.

Prosecutorial Discretion and Criminal Charges

The discretion Washington State prosecutors and federal prosecutors are given is vast. Resources are limited to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes, so prosecutors choose which cases they believe are worth pursuing.

Prosecutors choose whether or not to bring criminal charges. If there is ample evidence in a case, a prosecutor is more likely to bring charges. If however the evidence is flimsy or somehow tainted, a prosecutor is less likely to bring criminal charges.

If formal criminal charges are not filed against you right after arrest, do not mistakenly believe that charges will never be filed. After an arrest, some jurisdictions file criminal charges quickly, while other jurisdictions wait to file formal charges. Many counties (especially King County) take months to file charges.

Prosecutors choose how they want to resolve the case. The prosecutor in a case gets to decide whether to plea bargain or go to trial. A prosecutor negotiating a plea deal generally has the power to agree to reduce the charges, agree to less harsh sentencing, and negotiate other terms of the plea deal.

Prosecutors make sentence recommendations to the court. In the event of a conviction, the prosecutor will then make a sentence recommendation to the court, which can potentially sway the court toward a harsher sentence.

Prosecutors, not victims, can file criminal charges. An alleged victim can report a crime to the police, which may prompt an investigation and submission of a written report to the prosecuting attorney’s office. This does not necessarily mean criminal charges will be filed. It is up to the prosecuting attorney to decide whether to file charges, and if so, what charges to file.

Hire Padula & Associates, LLC to Defend You

When you hire our firm we will evaluate the facts of your case and guide you on the best course of action. The skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC can help you fight the charges that have been filed against you. We answer the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We offer free consultations. Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366 or contact us on the web to schedule your fee consultation today.

Our firm handles State and Federal criminal cases throughout Washington State, including King County and Snohomish County.