How Prosecutorial Discretion Affects Criminal Cases

October 14, 2021

The United States Supreme Court has indicated that the entire purpose and intent of a prosecutor should be to ensure that justice is done in each case. The truth is that prosecutorial discretion affects criminal cases and is exceptionally critical to every criminal case. Most defendants charged with a crime are aware of how much leeway a prosecutor has in your criminal case. Consider speaking with an experienced Spartacus Law Firm attorney at (702) 660-1234 to discover answers to your questions, as well as learn all of your legal options and rights. We may be able to represent you and meet with the prosecutor on your behalf in order to attempt to obtain justice under the law.

How Prosecuting Attorneys Proceed

Prosecutors in the state of Nevada are required under the law to uphold high standards and ensure justice in every case. This standard applies to every type of prosecutor in Nevada including: 

Prosecutors are responsible for investigating crimes and determining if charges should be pressed against an individual or individuals. Prosecutors also decide what offenses to file, how much of a sentence to seek, the kind of plea deal to offer, and which cases should be dropped. They determine whether they should defend convictions in appeals court when accused criminals attempt to have their sentences reduced. Their decisions can affect the outcome of legal matters greatly, especially since prosecutors may not always act ethically or honestly when it comes to exercising their discretion. 

How Prosecutorial Discretion Affects Criminal Cases 

A prosecutor has an ethical responsibility to "seek justice," not merely convictions. However, in some cases, prosecutors may abuse their power and discretion in order to obtain a conviction, which can greatly affect the outcome of a case. 

Resources of the State of Nevada

Prosecutors have the responsibility of deciding how wise it is to spend resources on each individual case. If they believe that there is not enough evidence available for them to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then it may be best for them to drop the charges, which could lead to free suspects accused of crimes who would otherwise be convicted if necessary resources had been used on their cases. 

Choosing Criminal Charges

Since prosecutors are given discretion by law, they can choose which charges to file against an individual and what type of sentence to request upon conviction. How heavy or light the punishment will require some balance between protecting society and promoting the rehabilitation of offenders. As experts on the criminal justice system, prosecutors use their discretion based on what they know about crimes that have already occurred as well as those that may happen if certain policies are put into place.

Beyond Legal: Ethical Considerations

In the state of Nevada, when there is valid evidence along with probable cause, prosecutorial responsibilities call for prosecutors to bring charges against offenders. When prosecutors recognize they simply do not have enough substantial evidence or proof to likely win in court, it is typically in the state's best interests not to file charges rather than incur the associated expenses of pursuing a legal case in which they will likely not be successful. Making the discretionary decision regarding the weight and significance of evidence or proof in a case is frequently a subjective call for the prosecution. As a result, it is important to consider visiting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Spartacus Law Firm who can speak with the prosecutor on your behalf.

Understanding Plea Deals

According to the United States Department of Justice, plea deals (also known as plea bargains) are one way that prosecutorial discretion affects criminal cases. A defendant may negotiate a plea bargain in which they admit to their charges and, as part of the agreement, accept a punitive punishment such as jail time or fines.  Many cases result in plea bargaining instead of jury trials, especially when the evidence against a defendant is overwhelming.

Many defendants are likely to accept plea agreements for several reasons. For example, some cases result in plea bargaining because of an overload of criminal activity within the court system or because prosecutors want to save time and money.  Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure that you understand all of your legal options and help you make a decision regarding whether or not it is in your best interest to take a plea deal in your specific case. 

Types of Plea Bargains

One type of plea bargain, and one of the best negotiated resolutions to a criminal case in the State of Nevada is known as a “submittal.”  A submittal is considered a deferred adjudication, but the significance lies in the fact that the defendant never enters into a plea to the charge.  The criminal case is submitted back to the court, usually for the defendant to complete a set of requirements, such as the payment of a fine or restitution, classes related to the underlying charge, such as a theft or impulse control class, and a stay out of trouble provision, which typically is six months.  Upon completion of these requirements the case is dismissed, and eligible to be sealed immediately.  The significance of the submittal resolution lies in the fact that the defendant does not enter into a plea such as guilty or no contest, which is the case in a stay of adjudication.

A stay of adjudication involves the defendant entering into a verbal plea of no contest or a guilty plea, however, the court does not enter a judgment of conviction.  The adjudication of guilt is stayed until a defendant completes a series of requirements.  For example, in a domestic violence stay of adjudication plea, it is typical to have to undergo a twenty-six or fifty-two week set of domestic violence classes, pay a fine, perform community service and upon the successful completion of these requirements the case is dismissed, or the charge is amended from a more serious charge to a charge such as simple battery or disturbing the peace.  If the requirements are not met the Court can adjudicate the defendant guilty and the conviction will be entered against the defendant.  Upon the successful completion of a withhold of adjudication plea a defendant can have their filed sealed pursuant to statute.  

Both stays of adjudication and submittals are viable resolutions to serious criminal charges.  If you have been arrested you need an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorney that understands the plea bargain procedure and can help you obtain the best possible resolution to a criminal charge.

Discretion to Charge a Lesser Crime

Prosecutors may also make the determination to charge a person of a but distinct offense based on the evidence. The same scenario and evidence might be interpreted as assault or malicious wounding, for example. As a result of how prosecutorial discretion affects criminal cases, it is ultimately a person deciding whether or not to pursue more serious charges, and spent the state's time and financial resources, or simply pursue a lesser charge.  

Prosecutorial Discretion in the State of Nevada 

In the state of Nevada, prosecuting attorneys have the authority to pursue criminal prosecution against those who are charged with crimes in such a manner pursuant to the best good and interest of the state. The prosecution has a tremendous amount of leeway in determining which crimes to charge a suspect with and the severity of those charges. It costs a substantial amount of money and resources to prosecute someone, and it costs even more if a defendant spends a substantial time in jail. 

Simply putting every accused criminal in jail is unwise for the government. Prosecutors may examine the facts of a specific case and ultimately make the determination that some form of rehabilitation or community service would be a more appropriate response. This is particularly significant in cases with no prior criminal record and no violent crime was intended.

Consider Visiting with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney 

While you have a legal right to represent yourself in any matter, having an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney by your side can help you understand all of your legal options and help you make the difficult decisions in your case. In many cases, criminal defense attorneys will visit with the prosecutor to attempt to reduce the charge or even dismiss a criminal case completely. Consider visiting with the experienced and compassionate criminal defense attorneys at Spartacus Law Firm at (702) 660-1234 today to learn more.

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